UPDATE: Broadhurst has been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.
There are certain topics bound to draw attention to a news story – money, relationship drama, death, sex. The case of Natalie Connolly features most of these elements, and it’s the most salacious details – mentions of her “millionaire boyfriend” and “rough sex” – that lead today’s media reports of her killer’s admittal of manslaughter.
According to those reports, Connolly, 26, was killed either during or as a result of drug- and alcohol-fuelled sex with her boyfriend, John Broadhurst, 40. Her body – left at the bottom of the stairs in their South Staffordshire home – wasn’t found until the next morning at around 9.30am, when Broadhurst finally contacted the emergency services. The medics who found her told the court she had suffered at least 40 distinct injuries, including bruises, internal injuries and a “blow-out” fracture to her left eye. Witnesses for the prosecution also said that Broadhurst wasn’t “unduly upset” at finding his girlfriend’s body, and that he was acting as though he was hungover.
There are many more salacious details of the circumstances surrounding Connolly’s death floating around the internet, none of which should ever be repeated, as, now that the trial has ended, they couldn’t be less relevant to the story. It is equally irrelevant that Broadhurst is a millionaire and that he had three children. But what is important is how the crime has been framed, and what these reports don’t point out is that this is an act of domestic violence.
Yes, the court was told by witnesses that Connolly had an interest in “masochistic sex”, meaning that she may have consented to what the papers are referring to as “rough sex”. But what Broadhurst did was beyond any recognisable form of consensual masochism, and instead was pure, unchecked violence.
What is important is how the crime has been framed, and what these reports don’t point out is that this is an act of domestic violence
Broadhurst avoided a murder charge, but he did kill Connolly. Prosecutor David Mason QC said the the lesser charge of manslaughter, to which Broadhurst pleaded guilty, was accepted by the court because it was an “unusual case” and the evidence was “very complicated”. He added that Connolly’s family had been informed of the changes and agreed with the court’s decision.
Though he has admitted manslaughter, the judge in the case still has the same sentencing options open to him as he would the more serious charge of murder. “Whilst it is not a charge of murder, it is nonetheless an exceptionally serious offence,” he told Broadhurst at the trial. “All sentencing options remain open. You should be prepared for a custodial sentence of some length.”
We may never know what really happened on the night of Connolly’s death, but we can decide how we frame it in the future. When we recognise these acts for what they truly are, we can begin to count them, study them and eventually, possibly, stop them. Rather than a salacious story of sex and money, Connolly’s death should be presented as violence against women. This education begins with the national press read by millions – whether they like it or not, they hold one of the biggest keys to dispelling the myths of domestic violence.
For confidential support, call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit womansaid.co.uk
If you or your family have lost a friend or family member through fatal domestic abuse, AAFDA (Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse) can offer specialist and expert support and advocacy, for more info visit www.aafda.org.uk