Dad who told his partner 'I love you' before trying to stab her to death gets 14 years

Darren Chawner has been jailed for 14 years for attempted murder.
Darren Chawner has been jailed for 14 years for attempted murder.

A drink and drugs-crazed attacker told his girlfriend he loved her before plunging a knife into her neck as they lay in bed.

Darren Chawner caused multiple stab wounds to Leigh-Anne Cook's neck, chest and hand when he tried to kill her without warning in the bedroom at their home last August.

The 29-year-old mum, who had given birth just six weeks before, suffered five knife wounds to her neck, chest and hands in the early-hours attack.

She had to be airlifted to hospital with a punctured lung and underwent emergency surgery.

At Newcastle Crown Court today, Chawner, 29, pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was jailed for 14 years, with a lifelong restraining order to keep him away from his victim.

Judge Paul Sloan QC told him: "At about 3.30am you have her a cuddle, telling her you loved her.

"Moments later, you got her into a headlock, turned her head so as to expose her neck, and proceeded to stab her in the neck with a 4in kitchen knife."

The court heard Miss Cook jumped out of bed after the attack and Chawner, who was naked, continued to stab her as she cowered in the corner of the room.

A relative who was staying at their house in Park Road, Stanley, County Durham, was disturbed by Miss Cook's screams and rushed into the room where Chawner, who was covered in blood, was standing over her.

The court heard Chawner took both their phones and locked the back door, but they managed to escape through the front and run to a neighbour for help.

Miss Cook was screaming "I'm going to die" as she left the house, while Chawner went to his dad's home in Washington before handing himself in to police.

Judge Sloan told Chawner that an attack on his partner in their home, where she should have been safe, "represents an abuse of power and trust".

"She feels the family has been destroyed as a result of your actions that night."

The couple, who had been together almost seven years and have two children, had been out together that night with friends, and Chawner had taken a cocktail of drink and drugs.

During the evening, Chawner had questioned Miss Cook about who she was speaking to and asked when they got back home why she was on Facebook.

At today's sentencing hearing, Miss Cook stood in the witness box and read her victim impact statement so Chawner could hear her try to explain her hurt and confusion at knowing that someone you loved wanted you dead.

She said she has nightmares about the attack, and has been left too scared to live at their former home.

She added: "I can't get my head around him being with me for so long and being capable of doing this all this time. It makes me sick."

Miss Cook said Chawner, who sobbed as she read the statement, was a good dad to their children, but added: "You have thrown it all away."

"To hurt me in that way, I don't understand. I don't know why you would want me dead. Life was good, we had a lot to look forward to."

Miss Cook said the attack "devastated" the family's happy life, adding: "Darren and I had a good relationship, I trusted him completely and he trusted me. This is what makes it so hard. I can't understand any of this."

Caroline Goodwin QC, defending, said Chawner's family were "the best thing that ever happened to him" and he has now lost everything because of his actions, which he is genuinely sorry for.

Miss Goodwin added: "Perhaps, but for the drink and drugs, this would never have happened."