Man found guilty of murder of West Lothian hairdresser

Katrina O'Hara was murdered in Blanford Forum. Picture; BBC South
Katrina O'Hara was murdered in Blanford Forum. Picture; BBC South
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A 49-year-old man has been found guilty of the murder of his former girlfriend whom he stabbed to death at the hairdressing salon where she worked.

Married Stuart Thomas had “lain in wait” for 44-year-old Katrina O’Hara and attacked her as she went for a cigarette at the end of the day at Jock’s Barbers in Blandford Forum, Dorset, on January 7.

Nigel Lickley QC told Winchester Crown Court that Thomas chased Ms O’Hara as she fled “screaming, terrified and crying” into the salon, where he stabbed her twice in the chest with a large kitchen knife.

She also suffered wounds to her hands where she had tried to protect herself.

Officers followed a trail of blood and found Thomas, who had cut his wrists with the same knife, the court heard.

Thomas was convicted by a majority of 10 jurors following a three-week trial and will be sentenced on a date to be set.

Mr Lickley told the trial that Ms O’Hara had reported Thomas, a father of four, to police just before New Year’s Eve after he repeatedly confronted her and sent her “many messages” pleading for her to take him back.

Thomas, who also goes by the name of George, was arrested on suspicion of harassment but was released by police on bail pending further inquiries and on the condition he did not contact Ms O’Hara.

Mr Lickley said: “Those closest to her knew in the last few weeks of her life, she had become very anxious and fearful, she had become scared of her former boyfriend, the defendant, who was at the time a married man with four children, and in particular of his increasingly obsessive and frightening behaviour.”

Mr Lickley said the pair had become romantically involved in May 2015 but by the autumn Ms O’Hara had attempted to end the relationship because she did not want to have an affair with a married man.

He described how the defendant would repeatedly persuade her to take him back by threatening to kill himself.

This led to a violent confrontation at an industrial unit that Thomas, a self-employed builder, kept where Ms O’Hara suffered injuries to her elbow and top lip.

Mr Lickley said Ms O’Hara twice found Thomas staring at her inside her home after he had got inside through an unlocked door and an open window.

He added that, on December 27, Thomas took an attempted overdose as a “cry for help” which led Ms O’Hara, who lived with her teenage daughter, to report him to police because of his “abusive behaviour”.

The defendant was also seen by a consultant psychiatrist who did not diagnose a mental illness but said the defendant drank too much.

Mr Lickley said Ms O’Hara saw a domestic abuse adviser on January 5 who made a request for alarms to be fitted to her property for her personal protection.

The defendant claimed he had not intended to hurt Ms O’Hara and that he had produced the knife outside the salon to harm himself but she had grabbed the knife and had “somehow stabbed herself”.