'Obsessed' man slit ex-girlfriend's throat before torching bedroom, court told
A spurned boyfriend who became obsessed with his ex-girlfriend slit her throat before torching her bedroom after police had warned him to stay away, a court has heard.
Michael Lane, 27, is accused of murdering 19-year-old Shana Grice after she decided to renew a relationship with her ex-boyfriend Ashley Cooke.
Prosecutors claim Lane refused to accept their break-up and that he decided no one else would be allowed to form a relationship with Miss Grice.
A packed Lewes Crown Court heard Lane told a friend he was unhappy she had "gone back to her ex" and said: "She'll pay for what she's done."
In the months before she was murdered, Lane allegedly stalked Miss Grice, put a tracker device on her car and turned up unannounced at the home she shared with two friends.
Six months before the killing, Miss Grice reported to police that she was being stalked by Lane.
Jurors also heard that Mr Cooke's car was damaged, with a note left on it reading: "Dear Ash, Shana has and always will cheat on you. Happy New Year."
Lane, who got to know Miss Grice when they both worked at Brighton Fire Alarms, was warned by police to stay away from her, jurors were told.
Five months later, on July 9 last year, Lane was cautioned by police for another incident after he stole a key to her back door before letting himself in as she hid under her duvet, the court heard.
Opening the Crown's case, prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said: "Unfortunately, Michael Lane had become obsessed by Shana.
"During their relationship, he stalked her. He put a tracker on her car and followed her movements.
"That obsession with her translated into killing her. He would not allow anyone else to be with her."
Two days before Miss Grice was killed, she met Lane at a hotel in Hove where it was agreed their relationship was over, but he refused to accept it, the jury heard.
On August 25 last year, Mr Bennetts said Lane waited until the last person had left Miss Grice's bungalow in Chrisdory Road, Mile Oak, Brighton, East Sussex.
It is alleged Lane then went in to the property and slashed Miss Grice's throat before setting fire to her bedroom.
Her body was found face-down on the bed in the smoke-filled room by Mr Cooke's father, Ian Cooke, after her concerned colleagues reported she had failed to arrive at work.
Two seats of fire were revealed: one on the carpet at the foot of the bed and the other on the double bed. A box of matches were found on the floor and there were suggestions an "ignitable liquid" was used.
Lane, of Thornhill Rise, Portslade, denies murder.
Lane was arrested on the day of the killing at his workplace, Michael Lane SE Tyres in London Road, Burgess Hill.
Mr Bennetts said: "He responded by saying 'Murder' but made no further comment. He did not ask who he was being accused of murdering or when indeed it had taken place."
Jurors were also told that Miss Grice's killer had dismantled the smoke alarm in the hallway and disposed of broken pieces of it under her bed.
Police alerted to a man matching Lane's description found a pair of bloodstained white Lonsdale trainers by a hedgerow five days after Miss Grice's death.
DNA showed that Lane had worn those shoes at some point, and a scientist's opinion was that a footprint found on Miss Grice's doorstep came from a Lonsdale shoe.
In earlier police interviews, Lane said he had not been at Miss Grice's home on the day of the killing but later changed his account.
He told officers: "You ain't going to believe me ... in the morning I did go to Shana's."
Mr Bennetts said Lane told police he called at her home after driving past and spotting her car parked outside.
Mr Bennetts told jurors: "The front door was open so he went in and saw Shana. Shana was on the floor leaning against the bed.
"There was no burning or fire. He left. He didn't telephone the police. He didn't telephone for an ambulance.
"He told no-one about what he had seen. He panicked. He said he thought the police would blame him."
Mr Bennetts said jurors would have to examine Lane's change of accounts.
Lane also said in a later police interview that he had installed a tracker on Miss Grice's car after initially saying he had bought it to cut his insurance premiums.
"He agreed it was a wrong thing to do and agreed that to do so amounted to stalking," Mr Bennetts added.
Of Lane, Mr Bennetts went on: "There is, we submit, no other candidate. His last account of entering the house and seeing Shana Grice does not survive examination."
Ashley Cooke told the court how on one occasion he confronted Lane after finding him standing in an alleyway near Miss Grice's home.
Mr Cooke said: "I just said, 'What are you doing there?' and he said, 'I'm allowed to be down here'.
"I got angry and one of the householders came out and she sorted it."
Mr Cooke also said that Lane would often turn up at "random places" and "every time" he was in Miss Grice's car with her he would see him.
Mr Cooke, who was 17 or 18 when he first met Miss Grice, said she had mentioned Lane being "a bit flirty" with her at work.
Ashley Cooke's father, Ian Cooke, told the court of the moment he found Miss Grice's body in her smoke-filled bedroom after Lane had allegedly torched it.
Mr Cooke said his son had called him at work asking him to go round to her home following concern for her, and he arrived there to the smell of burning.
He said a piece of cardboard had been wedged in the bedroom door to keep it closed.
After retreating outside to get some air, Mr Cooke said he and his sister-in-law Debbie Kennard went back into the smoky bedroom.
Mr Cooke said: "I saw the bed and at first I thought it was just a duvet, then I realised there was a body on the bed.
"I was shouting out for Shana. I then saw her face down, arms to her side.
"Me and Debbie Kennard looked at each other in shock and horror."
Mr Cooke also told jurors how Miss Grice and his son had had their tyres repeatedly let down.
And he disclosed that police were called in after Lane pursued Miss Grice as she ran out of her bungalow after he unexpectedly turned up with her two housemates following a visit to a pub.
Mr Cooke said: "I understand that he ran after her and tried to grab her mobile phone out of her hand as she was asking my son to come and help her."
The case continues from 10.30am on Thursday.