Man killed fiancee after proposal when she called him by ex’s name

A jealous lover killed his fiancee on the night he proposed to her because she called him by her former partner’s pet name, a court heard today.

Mark Brandford crushed the skull of girlfriend Kayleigh Dunning in a ‘brutal and ferocious’ attack, a jury was told.

In the lead up to her her death, a court heard he had been to a registry office with plans to marry Kayleigh, something she knew nothing about.

Images posted to Brandford’s Instagram from the evening show Kayleigh posing next to novelty balloons which said ‘Will you marry me?’ on them, a jury heard. 

The alleged attack on the 32-year-old cleaner took place at Brandford’s home in Portsmouth, Hants, in December 2019.

Prosecutors say Kayleigh Dunning (pictured) was violently beaten to death by her jealous lover Mark Brandford after she called him a former partner’s pet name on the night he proposed

Kayleigh was found naked at Brandford's home with numerous blows to her head and neck which had crushed her skull and severed the major artery in her neck causing her death

Kayleigh was found naked at Brandford’s home with numerous blows to her head and neck which had crushed her skull and severed the major artery in her neck causing her death

Today at Portsmouth Crown Court, Hants, a jury heard how Ms Dunning was allegedly killed by Brandford, who denies murder.

Simon Jones, prosecuting, said: ‘Numerous blows to her head and neck had crushed her skull and severed the major artery in her neck.

‘She had clearly tried to defend herself and she received heavy injuries to her hands and forearms in her struggle, her struggle to ward off the attack – but she didn’t have a chance.’

He added that she was naked at the time of the ‘prolonged and violent attack’. 

‘The prosecution say that Mark Brandford extensively lied when questioned by police.

‘We say that he murdered Kayleigh because he was jealous.’

In interview after being arrested, the street sweeper said that Kayleigh had told him to turn off her alarm in the morning, calling him ‘Noodle’ in the process.

The court heard that was her nickname for the other man she was seeing, Dean, of whom Mr Jones said Brandford was ‘heavily jealous’.

He said: ‘The couple previously had had violent arguments when she accidentally called him by Dean’s name in the past.’

Police having set up a tent as part of a search as part of investigation into Kayleigh's death

Police having set up a tent as part of a search as part of investigation into Kayleigh’s death

The court heard how the couple had an ‘unusual history’. They met two years before the murder and were both in long-term relationships at the time.

They both broke up with their partners to be together and were at one point engaged, but their relationship ended in August 2019.

Kayleigh moved back to her father’s home and started seeing her previous boyfriend before becoming involved with Brandford again in December 2019. 

Mr Jones said Kayleigh was a ‘lively character’ and that her family and friends remember her as an ‘open, chatty, outgoing and passionate young woman’.

On the night of her killing, Kayleigh didn’t tell her father and brother that she was staying at Brandford’s because ‘they didn’t approve of him’.

The next morning, Brandford left the flat just after 5am, before returning later and calling 999 under the pretence that he had just discovered her body. Mr Jones said this was ‘a sham’.

Mr Jones said ‘he was going on to create a facade of someone going about his normal day’ by going to work, telling everyone he met about the engagement and watching his beloved Aston Villa on TV in betting shops.

At 6.30pm Kayleigh’s father called the police and reported her as missing. Police called Brandford and he told them he hadn’t seen Kayleigh since 5am and that he wouldn’t be home for at least two hours because ‘he was watching football’.

Police tape in alley behind Brandford's home in Portsmouth where Kayleigh's body was found

Police tape in alley behind Brandford’s home in Portsmouth where Kayleigh’s body was found

He finally returned home and called 999 at 9.40pm, more than seven hours after he finished work.

The 999 call appeared to sound as if Brandford had been performing CPR for four minutes, but when paramedics and police arrived he was not out of breath or sweaty.

Brandford was described as ‘going through the motions as this grief stricken fiancee’ by Mr Jones.

Paramedics had even seen him putting his fingers down his throat ‘to make himself gag and retch to give a show of shock and horror’, the court heard.

There were no signs of a break in or any sign that anyone else was in the house.

Brandford was arrested at about 11pm on Tuesday night.

Regarding the murder weapon, Mr Jones said: ‘It’s possible that there may have been more than one implement used to inflict all of the severe injuries on Kayleigh that night.’

The pathologist working on the case suggested that the murder weapon may have been a ‘heavy tool with a sharpened point such as a crowbar’.

While working as a street sweeper the day after the murder, Brandford walked down a ‘secluded pathway’ behind the road he was supposed to be working on.

Following a police search, a crowbar and a screwdriver were found down this pathway.

No blood or DNA was found due to it not being discovered until March 2020, three months after the murder.

However a colleague of Brandford claimed that a crowbar similar to the one found had gone missing from a lock up containing work tools.

As well as murder he is accused of disclosing private sexual photographs and films without Kayleigh’s consent with the intent of causing her distress between October 2018 and December 2019.

The trial continues.

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