It was approaching Christmas 2013 and Lily Allen was number one with her cover of the Keane classic, ‘Somewhere only we know’ and topping the US charts was ‘The Monster’ with Eminem featuring Rhianna.
In Sheffield, Simon Holdsworth was a 36-year-old father, engaged to be married to his fiancée Carleen McKeown. He was working extra hours to save up for their honeymoon, after their planned wedding in August 2014. On December 16th 2013, Simon was working his shift at FBS Prestige in Intake, where he worked as a sprayer and had done for 16 years. As his shift was coming to an end, he called Carleen at around 9.30pm asking her to wait up for him as they hadn’t seen each other in a couple of days. Carleen told him he could bring her up a cup of tea when he got home but he said he didn’t want to wake her and the couple agreed to speak the next day. Carleen went to sleep feeling happy and positive about the future. Simon was a strong and loving man who had embraced being a father to her son Tiarnan, from a previous relationship. Tiarnan was going to be four on Christmas Eve and Carleen knew that some of the extra money Simon was earning was going to be used to buy him extra presents. When they got engaged in 2011 she could not have been happier. She loved that Simon was a very generous person who would always give up his time to help people, to the point where she sometimes became frustrated with him because there were things to be done at home. They were not wealthy but financially stable and this is why Simon was working so hard to ensure they could have a wonderful wedding the following year.
The next morning, call centre worker Jake Green crossed playing fields near his home as he walked to catch a taxi at around 6.15am. Jake, who worked at a Marks and Spencer site in Rotherham, thought he saw something as he walked across the field in the dark which he initially thought was bedding or a duvet. As he got closer, he realised it was a body and he saw blood around the man’s face, nose and lips. Jake tried to make a noise to wake the man but when that didn’t stir he ran to the waiting taxi and asked him to call an ambulance. Jake said: “He just looked like he was asleep. He had his arms by his side and he looked like he was asleep.” The paramedic who was called to the scene just before 6.30am, said the victim had “obvious swelling to his face and his mouth”. He added: “He had obvious blood loss from his nose, mouth and facial injuries. His colouration was grey. My immediate thought was that the male was deceased.”
When Carleen woke up, her fiancée Simon still wasn’t at home and the Christmas tree lights hadn’t been turned off, something he usually did when he got home. She called her father and Simon’s mum to find out where he was, as well as calling the factory where he worked. When he failed to turn up, she repeatedly called his phone but there was no answer. It was later that day that Carleen’s whole world fell apart. Two police liaison officers arrived at her house later that morning to tell her that her fiancée Simon’s body had been found at nearby playing field earlier that morning. And shockingly, he had been murdered.
A post mortem found Simon had suffered severe skull fractures and lacerations to the scalp and there were no signs of any defence injuries. He had been hit with a blunt instrument and this had caused fatal head injuries.
The police were baffled. It was a horrifying murder that no-one who knew Simon could understand – why would anybody have waited in the dark for a gentle man with no enemies and beaten him to death with a metal bar as he walked home from work? Simon Holdsworth was hugely popular at the FBS Prestige factory where he had worked for so long and, in the days after his death, family, friends and colleagues could not comprehend why anyone would have possibly wanted to hurt him.
The police released a detailed appeal to the local community, with one local newspaper carrying the following story. A “DEDICATED family man” murdered on his way home from work in Sheffield is unlikely to have been the victim of a “random attack by a complete stranger”, detectives say. South Yorkshire Police is today urging friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances of 36-year-old Simon Holdsworth to get in touch, as they seek to establish the fullest possible picture of his life. His body was discovered in a field near his home in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, on December 17, and police believe he may have been attacked with a blunt object. His fiancée, Carleen McKeown, added: “I don’t know who’s hurt him, but if anybody knows anything, please just help us.” Detective Superintendent Phil Etheridge, who is leading the investigation, said: “We have already appealed to those who may have seen anything suspicious in the Birley Spa Lane area of Sheffield, or those who travelled on the bus with Simon as he made his final journey back to Hackenthorpe, to get in touch with us. However, we are now widening that appeal in a bid to find out as much as we can about Simon’s life. We are keeping an open mind regarding a motive for this brutal murder. However, it remains the case that, while we cannot eliminate it totally, it is unlikely that this was a random attack carried out by a complete stranger. We are therefore seeking to discover who has done this to Simon, and why. In order to do this, we need to speak to all those who knew him in all spheres of his life, whether this be through work, his love of fishing, his following of Sheffield Wednesday or his personal life.”
Simon was a big supporter of local football team Sheffield Wednesday following them home and away. Clearly, there is only one Team of any significance in Yorkshire, or Europe for that matter The Mighty Leeds United – but Simon enjoyed following a less significant Team home and away. The weekends game against Bournemouth saw Club officials laying a wreath on Simon’s seat in the North Stand on Saturday morning and the players wore black armbands during the match.
Police slowly pieced together the events leading to Simon’s death and there was one colleague of Simon’s who became their prime suspect due to his odd behaviour. This was 45-year-old Shaun Wainwright. In the hours and days following the murder, Wainwright attempted to play the part of concerned and bereaved colleague – offering to visit the scene to find out information for fellow workers and even buying a wreath to lay at the playing fields. He spoke of his bond with Simon and their shared love of football, as well as their plans to go fishing together. But his odd behaviour soon led to police identifying him as the prime suspect. In the days after the murder, Wainwright visited a number of pubs where he made a series of increasingly bizarre claims about Simon’s killing. Staggeringly, the police reached the conclusion that Simon had been killed over a trivial matter with his work colleague.
On the day he was murdered, Simon was the only key holder at his company. Wainwright had mistakenly left his wallet at work after finishing for the day and police believe he approached Simon at a nearby bus stop and knowing that he was a key-holder he asked to let him back inside to get his wallet. Wainwright was angry as he wanted to go night fishing. When Simon refused, Wainwright planned to take revenge. – Wainwright drove to the bus stop and asked Simon to reopen the factory for him so he could get his wallet to go night fishing. No one knows the precise details of their conversation, but the police believed Simon refused because he wanted to go home. A furious Wainwright at that very moment made the snap decision to kill Simon.
Simon followed his normal routine home. He got off the 120 First Bus at his usual stop in Birley Spa Lane before following his usual route across the field to reach his home in West Field Avenue. But when police examined the CCTV, they saw an unrecognisable figure walk onto the field followed a couple of minutes later by Simon. Just one minute later, one of the figures is seen leaving the field and getting into a nearby parked car before driving away from the scene. This was the location where Simon was killed and his dead body was found at the location the following morning.
When interviewed by police, Wainwright told them that after he had finished work he drove the five minutes straight to his home. He went to bed after re-watching part of his favourite film Deep Blue Sea, a movie about giant killer sharks. – including a culprit who was a gypsy and an attacker who used a Samurai sword. However, CCTV suggested otherwise and Wainwright didn’t get home until 40 minutes after he had claimed. There was a window when he could have killed Simon so police knew they had to find out whether it was Wainwright who was the shadowy figure pinpointed on CCTV. They knew that he was certainly well aware of the location. The playing fields where Simon’s body was discovered belonged to Rainbow Forge Primary School where Wainwright himself had been a pupil.
In episode 20 of the UK True Crime Weekly Podcast, ‘A Deadly Obsession’ one of the pieces of evidence that showed Carl Whant had killed Nikitta Grender was his defective car which was caught on CCTV. It was the same in this case where Wainwright’s blue Vauxhall Astra had a number of unique faults. One headlight dipped more than the other and it also had an up-lit number plate. In addition, there was a distinctive boot spoiler, shiny-spoked alloy wheels and non-standard rear tail lights. Through detailed analysis of the CCTV taken throughout the local area, police and experts were able to prove that Wainwright’s car, which was unique due to the faults and modifications identified, had been at the crime scene where Simon was murdered. When Wainwright was shown this CCTV of his car at the crime scene and told about the information that proved it was his car, Wainwright’s whole demeanour changed. He initially insisted it was not his vehicle and not him seen on the footage going into his house. He then gave ‘no comment’ interviews to police before claiming in his trial that during the missing minutes he had been parked on a side-road drinking lager and listening to music while thinking ‘sombre thoughts’ about his late partner Alison Platt, who had died of cancer five years before. Wainwright said he had not told police about this as he only remembered it after being charged and he was also concerned about being prosecuted for drink-driving. But the police and prosecution were able to produce CCTV footage of the road, taken from the 120 bus on which Simon took his final journey, which clearly showed that Wainwright’s car was not there.
In the 48 hours after Simon’s death, Wainwright was seen revisiting the crime scene 11 times, and even on occasion talking to police officer at the scene. It seems that in addition to murdering Simon Wainwright he had also stolen from him. Police discovered that a gold chain Simon had been wearing around his neck before he died was missing. Simon’s mobile was never found. CCTV again captured Wainwright’s actions as the day after Simon’s death, it showed Wainwright visiting a nearby shop which trades gold and silver. On further investigation, Police discovered Wainwright had pawned an item of jewellery for £90 and although the chain wasn’t found police believe it was Simon’s. In addition. Officers who examined the crime scene also found a pair of gloves in the field, which had Wainwright’s DNA on them. Wainwright could offer no explanation for why they were there.
Now they knew that Wainwright was their man, they looked further into his actions after Simon was murdered and found that Wainwright had discussed details with others that only the killer could have known. On Christmas Eve, Wainwright told a friend that Simon had been robbed and that his phone and chain had been stolen. This information was not made public until 3 January 2014 which is clear evidence that he knew much more than he was willing to admit.
When police looked further into Wainwright’s history his actions made a little more sense. Police discovered that Wainwright had a background of holding a grudge and reacting violently when he believed people had either humiliated or wronged him. Back in 1991 he had been convicted of grievous bodily harm at a football match when he attacked a man causing bleeding and bruising to his face. His excuse for this was because the man allegedly spat in his face.
Depressingly, but not unexpectedly, Wainwright was not beyond attacking his female partners. In so many episodes of the UK True Crime Weekly podcast we hear about domestic violence and although occasionally like in Episode 4, “The Husband Killer”, it can be women attacking men, is almost exclusively the other way around. Wainwright was cautioned by the police in 2013 for causing Actual Bodily Harm to his girlfriend. He said he had pushed her into a door after she hit him in the eye with a spatula during an argument – and added he was in such a state that he had to leave the house and drive to Skegness to calm himself down.
In his previous job at Pennine Foods in 2013, Wainwright was dismissed for what he described as a ‘verbal assault’ against two other workers. Wainwright had explained the background to his dismissal by saying that one of the men had sprayed chlorine in his face and the other started laughing. He responded with some ‘choice words’ while holding a hot drink in his hand that he threatened to throw over them. Nice. But this need for retribution was evidenced again as a few weeks after his sacking, Wainwright was seen hanging around near the factory by another former colleague who recalled Wainwright saying, ‘I’m going to get him’ and ‘Wait until I get hold of him’. In 2012, while still working at Pennine Foods Wainwright had been involved in a ‘heated argument’ with another colleague. As he drove a different colleague home that day Wainwright pulled out a makeshift weapon as he spoke angrily about the colleague he had argued with earlier. In a different incident at Pennine Foods, Wainwright once followed a colleague for 27 miles around Sheffield in his car. When he was pulled up about it, Wainwright admitted following the man, but said it was for less than a mile and was done as a ‘joke’ as the worker didn’t want other colleagues to find out where he lived. I think it is fair to say that this was anything but the joke Wainwright claimed it to be.
After beginning working as a temp at FBS Prestige, Wainwright complained of having his food stolen from a communal kitchen. Whereas others may have taken alternative steps, Wainwright responded by using a needle to inject one of his apples with laxative in a bid to catch the thief. A bit extreme, but as we can see – that is Wainwright. Around three months before Simon was murdered, Wainwright was seen taking a length of metal bar from work one evening, hiding it up his sleeve. Not being the brightest cookie in the jar, Wainwright was of course spotted, but he wasn’t fussed about something as trifling as stealing from his employer. He told a co-worker after being spotted with the section of unused metal rail: “I will take this just in case something happens on the way home.” It was suspected by police that this metal bar, which has never been recovered, was the weapon used by Wainwright to beat Simon to death.
During his trial at Teeside Crown Court, Wainwright pleaded not guilty to murder.
He told the court that he had cried when he heard about Simon’s death and was ‘angry’ and ‘stunned’ adding “I cried. Angry, stunned, dismay, I was shocked. I ended up getting a lager out of the car.”
The Court heard that Wainwright had discussed Simon’s murder with punters and landlords in a number of Sheffield pubs. He told one man Simon had been stabbed 12 times, had a hole in the back of his head and had been attacked with a Samurai sword. He told another that a ‘gypsy’ had murdered him. This reminds us very much of his favourite film which incorporated all of these descriptions. The jury heard a transcript read of the defendant’s police interview in January 2014. Wainwright told police he saw a colleague with his head in his hands who told him they were ‘100% sure’ it was Simon’s body that had been found. Late afternoon he said he went back to work as he had not heard anything about Simon. He and a colleague then went fishing at locations including Oughtibridge for the entire day. Wainwright told police that on the morning after Simon’s murder he went to his workplace to pick up his wallet. During his interview, Wainwright said he had visited the murder scene a number of times after Simon died to pay his respects. On one occasion, he had laid a £3.70 wreath for Simon, on another he had said aloud ‘See you later mate, missing you’. He said: “I was very shocked because he was a likeable lad, he isn’t a person that’s got a bad bone in him.”
On Tuesday 23 June 2014 the Jury took less than two hours to return their unanimous verdict. Guilty. Wainwright stood on his feet and then and looked at the floor as the judge passed the sentence. Simon’s fiancée Carleen was in tears in the public gallery. Sentencing him to a minimum term of 28 years in jail, Mr Justice Globe said he had taken into account the severity of the attack and the fact he was left alone with no prospect of help. He continued, “Simon Holdsworth was 36 years of age when he died. The witnesses described him as a non-confrontational person, as someone who was shy and retiring, who had good relationships with others, with no bad blood anywhere, and someone in respect of whom no one could think of any reason for him being killed. “These observations are mirrored in the three victim personal statements I have studied from his mother, sister and fiancée. They describe him as the kindest, friendliest, most loving and caring young man, always full of fun and laughter, who was always first to offer assistance to those who needed a helping hand. “His death has brought untold misery and grief to his family and friends, some of whom are still undergoing counselling for the trauma they have suffered. The horror that happened on that night will remain with them for the rest of their lives. He will forever be in their hearts but he will never again be in their presence. “The question that’s asked in all three statements in different ways is why? Why did you do it? What was your motive? You have never given them a reason.” His defence barrister Nicholas Rhodes said Wainwright accepted he was going to get a life sentence. He was sent down to the cells after sentencing – and the judge praised the police, jury and friends and family in the public gallery. The sentence means Wainwright will be almost 75 years old before he is even considered for release on licence.
Speaking after the verdict, Simon Holdsworth’s family said: “Simon was a much-loved son, brother, fiancé, father and uncle. Our family have been totally devastated by what has happened to Simon. His life was brutally ended in the most horrific circumstances. Our lives will never be the same again. We miss Simon every day. He will be forever in our hearts.”
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Etheridge of South Yorkshire Police, said: “We know that Shaun Wainwright has a history of holding grudges against people for relatively minor things. He’s had workplace disputes before where he has physically assaulted people. Wainwright is a man who claimed to be Simon’s friend at work and has lied constantly and repeatedly throughout the investigation. He’s physically much bigger than the victim and overpowered him, leaving him for dead – all of this points to the actions of a violent bully. He knew where Simon would be that night and he drove to the scene intent on revenge for a dispute he had with him. The defendant has a short fuse and responded with maximum force over a minor grievance. Simon’s family have lost someone they loved dearly and Shaun Wainwright’s family have lost someone too – there are no winners here.’