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Woman, 34, held over businesswoman's death in 'targeted' attack

Published 17/01/2016

Police outside a house on Sunny Bank Road in Helmshore as a murder investigation has been launched after a 60-year-old woman was found dead
Police outside a house on Sunny Bank Road in Helmshore as a murder investigation has been launched after a 60-year-old woman was found dead

A "thoroughly decent" businesswoman was murdered in a "ferocious" knife attack at her £450,000 home, police said today.

Mother-of-three Sadie Hartley, 60, who runs a medical communications business was found stabbed to death in the hallway of her house on Sunny Bank Road in the village of Helmshore, Lancashire on Friday evening.

She was alone at the time, her partner Ian Johnston, an ex-fireman, was abroad on a skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps at the time. Police say he is not a suspect.

A 34-year-old woman from Chester is in custody on suspicion of murder, but police say they do not think she was known to the victim. Searches are ongoing in the Chester area.

Nothing is believed to be missing from Ms Hartley's home, a large detached, stone-built property, and there was no forced entry.

Ms Hartley suffered defence injuries as she fought back from the attack, launched possibly on her doorstep.

Detectives said Ms Hartley died in a "targeted attack" and do not believe the motive was robbery.

Police are now investigating the private and business life of the victim, who had two grown up daughters and a son.

Detective Superintendent Paul Withers, from Lancashire Police said: "She's a thoroughly decent lady, successful businesswoman who works very, very hard and she certainly didn't deserve to end her life in this manner.

"I don't feel this is a random attack, I think Sadie has been targeted by an individual who clearly had some issues with her for whatever reason and it is imperative we find out why this has happened.

"It was quite a ferocious attack on a lady at home alone. We are absolutely determined to identify who has done it so hopefully they will face the courts and a lengthy, lengthy custodial sentence.

"We are determined to get justice for Sadie and her extended family and her partner Ian.

"I genuinely believe the truth in this tale will come from this community."

A director of her own business, Hartley Taylor, based in Knutsford, Cheshire, the victim was last seen alive on Thursday at a conference in Manchester with a colleague.

She was last in contact with a friend and work colleague around 7.30pm on Thursday evening, then stopped answering emails, which was unusual.

Police believe she was murdered sometime on Thursday evening.

When a colleague became concerned she could not be contacted, police were called.

Officers and paramedics found her body around 10.40pm on Friday in the hallway of her house.

A post-mortem examination carried out on Saturday evening confirmed the cause of death as multiple stab wounds.

Mr Withers said described the attack as "horrific" and one of the worst he had seen in his career.

Her partner, Mr Johnston, a volunteer with Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue team, whose mother died just two months ago, is now back in the UK.

Police today made an appeal to identify a car and three individuals caught on CCTV in the area in the time leading up to the murder.

Police want to trace an old style Renault Clio car seen on CCTV driving into Sunny Bank Road and driving off around a minute later around 8pm last Thursday.

They also want to trace a person seen walking out of the cul-de-sac and in the general direction of the village store and Holcombe Road.

He is seen to pass another person walking in the opposite direction into the cul-de-sac and a few moments later a jogger is seen on the footage.

House-to-house visits are continuing today as well as searches of the area around the house and forensic examination inside.

Officers want to speak to anyone who recognises the CCTV descriptions or any locals in the area, popular with dog walkers, to come forward.

Mr Withers added: "They are clearly very concerned by what's happened here, it's a nice area, I'm sure they are shocked by what's happened."

Detectives can be called on 101 quoting incident reference 1481 of January 15 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at

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