123 injuries and 18 broken ribs - Mother changed mind about killing daughter’s abusive Edinburgh boyfriend before he beat her to death

A mother whose daughter was beaten to death by her Edinburgh boyfriend has told a Channel 5 documentary she thought about killing him before he murdered her.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 5:54 pm

Penny Beale wanted to help her daughter, Penny junior, escape the extreme abuse of her boyfriend Michael Moffat while they lived together in Hastings in the south of England.

Moffat, originally from Edinburgh, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum 11 years for murdering the 31-year-old at her basement flat in the East Sussex town in November 2001.

He punched, kicked and stamped on Penny junior in her flat, inflicting 123 injuries all over her body. Penny’s ribs were fractured in 18 places which pierced her lungs, liver and spleen.

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Penny Beale (left) wanted to help her daughter, Penny junior, escape the extreme abuse of her boyfriend Michael Moffat. Pic: Channel 5/My5

Retired Sussex Detective Chief Inspector Deryck Hand told the Countdown to Murder programme: “Her injuries were so severe it was although she had fallen off a skyscraper.”

Her mother, Penny senior, told the programme she was prepared to kill Moffat and carried around a Stanley knife - but changed her mind as she did not want to leave her daughter alone while she went to prison.

She had reached the conclusion that her daughter’s relationship with this man was “disastrous” and that she wanted out, but he would not go away.

She told the programme: "That's the time when I was thinking 'yeah, I better kill him then'.

A photograph of Penny Beale, shown in the Channel 5 programme Countdown to Murder. Pic: Channel 5/My5

"One time I was actually carrying a Stanley knife and the only reason I put the Stanley knife back in its drawer was because I knew that if I did, I would be in prison and she would have nobody to look after her.”

Penny begged the police to help them, but there was never any official complaint made against Moffat by Penny junior.

However, an investigation into Moffat by Sussex police revealed an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Bristol, resulting in him being jailed. Penny junior then started to turn her own life around and stopped drinking.

But Moffat was released and the violence against Penny continued and family and friends were at a loss over how to end the violent relationship.

Moffat, originally from Edinburgh, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum 11 years for murdering the 31-year-old at her basement flat in Hastings in November 2001. Pic: Channel 5/My5

Her mother said: "To see anyone that you love in that state of confusion and terror is heart rending.

"She was too frightened to do anything officially, whereas I was having to decide as to when that line was crossed as to when life was at risk. I got it wrong, unfortunately."

Beaten to death

Forensic Criminologist, Alex Iszatt, told the documentary that potentially Moffat thought she really was going to leave him after she had some money paid into her bank account by a family member in late November.

Moffat attacked Penny by punching and kicking her and she collapsed to the floor.

He took money from her wallet and went to the pub. Two hours later, he returned to the flat and called 999 and told paramedics he found her injured at the bottom of the stairs. Shortly after she got to the hospital, medics pronounced her dead.

DCI Hand said a postmortem revealing the extent of her injuries provided the evidence to arrest Moffat three days after her death.

Pathologists found the only part of her daughter’s body which was not marked were the soles of her feet.

Later, witnesses came forward who heard banging and shouting and the sound of a woman shouting “don’t hit me.”

DCI Hand urged anyone who ever hears anything like this to call the police.

Moffat, a trained glassblower, pled guilty to murder at Lewes Crown Court in 2002 and was ordered to serve a minimum of 11 years in prison.

He was later cleared of any involvement in the death of Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey’s daughter, Samantha Novak, in 1985 after Penny Beale told senior told detectives he claimed to be “involved in the murder.”

Ms Novak, 21, was found face down in the River Avon, near the Clifton suspension bridge in the city. Police concluded she had fallen but the singer has always maintained her daughter’s death was not accidental.

Penny senior does not believe the 11-year sentence for her daughter’s killing was justice and felt the length of sentence should have been “a lot longer.”

Penny senior, who now supports other victims of domestic violence, told the programme she hoped her daughter had died very quickly because the agony she experienced must have been “unthinkable.”

She added: "My daughter once said to me, ‘mum, do you think I'm sleeping with a murderer?’ Now I know that she was and that as a parent I failed to save her from that fate."

One friend told the programme she believes Penny junior never left the abusive relationship because she believes Moffat would have killed her mother.

Penny senior urged anyone who knows of someone who may be suffering domestic abuse to report it to police, as it could be the difference between life and death.

The documentary is now streaming on My5, the video-on-demand service offered by Channel 5.

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