Jailed: Thug who attacked terrified ex-girlfriend with a hammer

Darren Stenhouse
Darren Stenhouse
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A man who brutally attacked his ex-girlfriend has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison this afternoon.

Serial offender Darren Stenhouse, 38, struck mother-of-three Claire Harrison with a hammer before tying her up with a cable.

The scene in Belgrave Road in March

The scene in Belgrave Road in March

He told his terrified 30-year-old former partner: “This will end with you in a box.”

Stenhouse, who had already served jail time for assaulting Ms Harrison in 2011, had come round to her Belgrave Road, Aylesbury home on March 5 to collect some items following their split. By this point he knew she was seeing another man.

He came armed with a hammer as well as cables and padlocks he had bought that day.

After initially acting politely towards his ex-partner, Stenhouse got out the hammer and hit Ms Harrison nine times with it on her head, arms and body, as well as on her back when she fell to the floor. Stenhouse hit his victim with such force that the handle of the hammer broke.

Ms Harrison, who has spoken out about her terrifying ordeal, said at one point during the assault she lost sight in her right eye.

Despite her begging for mercy and asking him to think of her children, Stenhouse only laughed and said he had ‘lots planned for her’.

He then he got out the cables and tied her up by her legs.

Stenhouse then told her his friends were on their way ‘to have a bit of fun’, adding that he had a knife and was ‘going to cut you up so you are not recognisable’.

Ms Harrison said she needed to go to the toilet and, after initially telling her to go where she was, Stenhouse untied her.

Stenhouse then asked the victim where her mobile phone was and she told him it was in another bedroom. When he left the room she barricaded herself in with a table and called the police.

The court heard the 999 call was ‘extremely impacting’, with Ms Harrison ‘hysterical and screaming’ and Stenhouse audible in the background.

After trying to break back into the room, which resulted in him suffering head injuries, and then throwing the hammer through a glass panel in the door, Stenhouse ran out of the house and was later found hiding in trees in Faraday Road by a police dog and handler.

Reading Crown Court heard that Ms Harrison miraculously escaped serious injury but suffers recurring nightmares about the incident and flashbacks when anything reminds her of the assault. The attack has also affected her memory.

Judge John Reddihough told Stenhouse, who had been living in Bicester after moving out of Ms Harrison’s home, he had a committed a ‘terrible offence’.

He added: “It is fortunate for the defendant and the victim that the injuries she physically suffered were not as bad as might have been feared, having been attacked in this way.”

Stenhouse, who was born in South Africa and has 16 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm and false imprisonment.

He was initially accused of attempted murder, but denied this charge and no further action will be taken on it.

He will be on licence for three and half years following his release.

Investigating officer Det Con Lynda Stearman said: “Claire showed immense bravery in managing to maintain the presence of mind to trick him into leaving the room so she could barricade herself in and call police.

“There is no doubt that her quick-thinking actions saved her from being even more seriously injured.

“It was a grotesque and unprovoked attack which could have resulted in death or life-changing injuries for Claire.”