A DRIVER accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend allegedly sent her abusive and threatening messages, claiming he would ‘destroy’ her.
Debbie Levey, 44, of Cherry Tree Cottage, East Ashling, was found dead at home by a colleague on Monday, January 28, 2013.
At the opening of the four-week trial at Lewes Crown Court today (January 7), prosecutor Mark Dennis QC said friends described Ms Levey as a ‘really lovely bubbly person’.
However, he added the care home manager had also been insecure and ‘somewhat vulnerable’.
“She had been repeatedly unlucky in love and relationships, falling it would appear for the wrong man time and time again. She had been married and divorced twice.
“This lack of security would appear to have taken its toll on her. She tended to ‘wear her heart on her sleeve’ and would sometimes get very low in her moods, needing a lot of support from friends.
“Trust, it appears, was something that was very important to her. It would knock her confidence if someone broke her trust in them.”
The man charged with her murder is Phillip Brown, in his 40s, from Selsey. He denies the charge.
A postmortem found telltale signs of asphyxia, indicating the victim had been smothered.
Ms Levey ended the relationship in November, 2012, after she found out Brown had broken her trust by cheating her out of £10, which Mr Dennis described as the ‘final straw’.
He added: “As for the defendant, he would not accept that the relationship had finished. He became somewhat obsessed by her.”
According to the prosecution, this even involved Brown attending a hospital where Ms Levey was due to have an operation and watching her in the waiting room.
He also threatened to ‘destroy her’, by emailing her work saying she had been drunk and caused the death of an elderly lady.
However he would then send her loving messages, leading him to be described as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde character’,
Ms Levey’s friend of more than 20 years Lynne Johnson described the messages as ‘like extremes of a Mills and Boon romance to a Stephen King horror’.
“It was like two different people,” she said. “The nice person and the nasty person.”
“I fear for my life with that man”
The night before she died, Ms Levey had gone to her neighbour Alison McQuaid’s house for a ‘girls’ night in’.
She stayed there until around 10pm.
“Inevitably, much of their conversation revolved around the defendant and his recent behaviour,” said Mr Dennis.
“One of her parting comments was to observe that ‘I fear for my life with that man’.”
Giving evidence in court, Mrs McQuaid said: “He was basically very abusive to her in texts and emails.”
She said barely weeks after the pair got together, Brown talked of marrying Ms Levey.
“Virtually, in the first few weeks that Debbie informed me that she was seeing Phillip Brown, she then announced that he had proposed to her and asked her to marry him.”
However, Mrs McQuaid this had been ‘way too soon’ for her friend.
“It was not something she was looking for – another marriage and so on. She didn’t know Phil that well and it was all happening too fast for Debbie.”
After the pair broke up, Mrs McQuaid said Brown had sent numerous messages, threatened to kill himself and sent a picture apparently showing himself self-harming.
He is also alleged to have set up a bogus email address and sent a false complaint to the Leaholme care home, in Gilmore Road, Chichester, where Ms Levey was a care manager.
After being confronted by Ms Levey on January 24 – three days before she died – he broke down in tears, admitted what he had done and emailed a retraction.
Later that day, the pair met at the cafe in Tesco, in Chichester, where Mrs McQuaid said Ms Levey had sought to ‘draw a line’ under the whole thing.
‘Staged’ crime scene to give impression of natural death
On the morning of January 28, 2013, Ms Levey was found dead on her sofa at her home, covered by a blanket.
At first there was nothing to arouse suspicion, however police quickly noticed three unusual aspects about the scene.
According to Mr Dennis, the unwrinkled state of the blanket spread over her was not as if she had placed in on herself, but rather that it had been placed on a lifeless body.
Secondly, there were fresh marks on her neck, which the prosecution said had the appearance of ‘fresh lovebites’.
Lastly, Ms Levey’s mobile phone was found at the bottom of the goldfish tank next to the sofa.
“The effect of immersing the mobile phone in the water was to destroy any messages or other information that was stored on the handset or SIM card of the phone,” said Mr Dennis.
Brown’s DNA was found at the home and on the marks on Ms Levey’s neck.
He was arrested not longer after and released on bail. Sussex Police charged him with murder on May 28, 2012.
The trial continues and is expected to last around four weeks.