A builder who bludgeoned his ex-wife to death with an axe over a dispute about their family home told 999 call operators to come and arrest him after he admitted killing her.
Stephen Booth, 64, plotted to kill his ex-wife, healthcare assistant Susan Booth, 62, after learning through his solicitor the family home he had built in Shaw, near Oldham, was to be sold for more than £450,000 within days.
He lay in wait at the home they had shared until their split three years earlier and struck her from behind with an axe when she came home from a shift at Royal Oldham Hospital.
She suffered catastrophic injuries and died a short time after being rushed back to the hospital where she worked.
A post-mortem exam found she had been struck 19 times by Booth’s axe and that she had tried to defend herself before succumbing to her injuries.
Yesterday, Stephen Booth was handed a life sentence and told he would a serve a minimum 22-and-a-half years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to murder.
Manchester Crown Court heard that after the brutal killing, Booth calmly rang 999 to admit to his crimes.
Just minutes after attacking his ex-wife, he rang 999 and said: ‘Hello there, my name is Stephen Booth. I’d just like to confess to a murder in Shaw.
Pictured: Builder Stephen Booth has been jailed for life for killing his ex with an axe after finding out she was selling their family home in Greater Manchester following their separation
‘It’s my wife I’ve just killed. I’m at my home address if you’d like to come over and arrest me or whatever you do.’
It was the first of two chilling 999 calls Booth made after murdering Susan, a beloved mother and grandmother – and popular healthcare assistant at the Royal Oldham Hospital.
As he continued to speak with an operator, he said he felt ‘terrible’ about what had happened.
Officers raced to the scene and found Susan barely conscious, at about 9pm on May 4. She was wearing her work uniform, and her NHS ID card.
Susan died about an hour later, in the hospital where she was loved and highly regarded.
Pictured: Susan Booth died from catastrophic injuries after her ex attacked her with an axe
Booth had refused to say more about the killing to the 999 operator, telling them ‘we can do that in interview’.
Divorce proceedings had been ongoing between the two, but had not been finalised and it was the proposed sale of their marital home that sent Booth into a murderous rage, Manchester Crown Court was told.
Booth built the family home they had shared in Audenshaw, Tameside and a sale had been agreed for £452,000.
Susan told him she wanted half, which Booth didn’t feel she deserved.
He would later tell police: ‘I’ve built it, literally, the roofing, bricklaying and everything, windows.
‘And she shot off with half of it to buy somewhere herself without me.’
Hours before the murder, Booth had been walking his dog when he was called by a solicitor at 11am, who told him the sale of the house was to be completed in three days’ time.
He had asked for another week but it was when he got home that Booth began to plot the killing.
Less than a week earlier, he had told a solicitor he would not be leaving the property and said he would be ‘ready for them’.
Stephen Booth attacked Susan at her new home. Pictured: Police on scene after she was killed
Booth and his wife had not spoken for two years, after they separated.
Susan moved to Hillside Avenue in Shaw, Oldham, while Booth remained at the family home at Churchfields, Audenshaw.
The couple had married in 1986, and had two children together, three grandchildren – and another on the way.
Susan also had two children from a previous relationship.
Susan had been hopeful that the house sale was progressing, after hearing her husband had agreed to leave.
The court heard she seemed in high spirits and was chatting to friends at work about it, before driving home after finishing her shift.
Booth told police (pictured on the scene of the attack) that he had not seen Susan for two years prior to his deadly attack but had plotted to harm her after learning she was selling his house
Booth had rang a taxi firm at 1pm earlier that day and booked a car for 7pm to take him into Shaw, knowing Susan would be home at around 8.30pm.
Susan made the short trip from work to her home where Booth was waiting at the rear of the property, armed with an axe.
Without warning, Booth pounced from behind and started attacking her with the axe. A pathologist later found she’d been hit 19 times to the head.
Her injuries suggested Susan had tried to protect herself, but she succumbed to the brutality of the attack.
Booth continued striking her with the axe even as she lay prone on the ground.
It was at 8.49pm when he made the first 999 call. Booth then booked a taxi home to Audenshaw.
Booth rang police minutes after he attacked his ex-wife and told an operator he had killed her
There, he was still speaking to an operator in the second of two 999 calls when armed police came to arrest him.
Booth had told them his full address and confessed.
‘I feel terrible… er terrible about what I’ve done, afterwards. I do, I feel awful about it,’ he said.
The next day, he made another confession to interviewing officers, revealing how he’d plotted the killing.
‘If I went to prison it wouldn’t be any more painful than what pain I’m going through now,’ he said.
Tributes to Susan told of her generosity and kind nature.
Pictured: Forensic officers on scene at Susan’s home after she had been murdered by Booth
‘Susan was a very quiet person, she had a wicked sense of humour, she was generous to a fault,’ a friend said.
‘She would give you her last penny, she didn’t have a penny to her name but would always buy birthday and Christmas presents for us all. There was no malice in her at all.’
Her family said she was the ‘epitome of caring’, and that nothing was too much trouble for her.
Karen Coverley, director of nursing at The Royal Oldham Hospital, told of Susan’s ‘compassionate’ nature and how she was loved by patients and her colleagues.
Booth is starting a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder. He will serve a minimum of 22-and-a-half years behind bars after being sentenced at Manchester Crown Court.
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