When 16-year-old Becky Watts went missing two years ago, police had little idea the teenager’s tragic fate would spark the largest police investigation ever launched in Bristol.
Initially it was thought she had run away, but as time progressed and there was no activity registered on her phone, senior investigating officer DCI Richard Ocone began to rightly suspect “something bad” had happened.
Nine months later Mr Justice Dingemans wept as he handed a life sentence to Becky’s stepbrother Nathan Matthews, who was found guilty of murder. His girlfriend Shauna Hoare was acquitted of the same charge but found guilty of manslaughter.
Presented by Susanna Reid, this programme, part of ITV’s Crime and Punishment season, pieces together the methods police used to build their case against Matthews and Hoare through previously unseen police tapes. It also includes heart-breaking testimony from her father upon being reunited with his daughter’s body in the morgue.
Who Was Becky Watts?
Becky was last seen at her house in Crown Hill in the St George area of Bristol. She left home on 19 February with her phone, laptop and tablet computer, but did not inform friends or family where she was going, or take extra clothes.
Avon and Somerset police began searching for the teenager, described by her friends and family as shy, after she was reported missing by her family at 4pm on 20 February.
Becky was described as 5ft 4 in and slim, with long brown hair and was wearing a navy blue Puffa jacket.
What happened to her?
Becky was the target of a sexually-motivated kidnap plot which culminated in her death. Murdered in her own bedroom, her body was put into the boot of Hoare and Matthews’ Vauxhall Zafira before being driven to their home and later dismembered in the bathroom with a circular saw.
The teenager’s remains were hidden in a friend’s shed at a nearby address, later discovered by police.
“When we saw her in the morgue, that’s when it really hit us. I mean, they did their best to cover up where he cut her up and things like that. But I could still see where he’d decapitated her. And no parents should have to see that,” her father Darren Galsworthy told Reid.
Revealing his daughter’s bedroom – still filled with posters and soft toys - he explained: “I believe they came both up here, they burst in on her, with masks on, and attacked her. She must have been absolutely bloody terrified.
“The image I have, in my nightmares, is him holding her down on the floor, and [Hoare’s placing her hand] over her mouth... They did it together, they planned it together, I don’t know what they expected to gain from it. ’Cause there was nothing in it for them. So, it was all pointless.”
How were her killers caught?
Initially it was suspected that Becky had simply run away, but as detectives began to unearth clues surrounding her disappearance, their attention turned to her stepbrother and his girlfriend.
Given that Becky had not used her phone or spoken to any of her friends, DCI Ocone revealed: “On day one you know I am fairly confident here, that something bad has happened to this young lady, I just don’t know exactly what.”
Police then discovered Matthews and Hoare were the last people to have seen her, but they proved difficult to pin down. Once at the station, officers found Hoare “giggly” and Matthews seemingly unconcerned. Meanwhile at Becky’s house, the forensic team were discovering a critical clue. Jon Draper from the team says: “That’s when we came across what appeared to be blood or red staining on the architrave of the doorframe leading into Becky’s room.”
When the bloody fingerprint turned out to belong to Matthews, he and Hoare were arrested, initially on suspicion of kidnap. Becky’s grandmother Pat remembered: “If was going to be something bad, it didn’t surprise me. Nathan hated Becky and made it obvious.”
Detectives didn’t tell Matthews they now knew it was his fingerprint in Becky’s blood, but hinted at what they’d found, to increase his unease. Det Con Marie Stephen explained: “Without giving that to them on a plate, if you like, it leaves them having to think about it, and puts them under more pressure.”
Police searched the pair’s own house, finding that despite the fact it was filthy and crammed full of furniture, the bath was sparkling clean. The search also uncovered incriminating receipts which indicated a gruesome truth. DCI Ocone says: “Those receipts indicated that somebody on the Friday, when Becky was reported missing, had been to B&Q and had bought a circular saw, some gloves, goggles, and a face mask… Does it really mean he has tried to dismember a body?”
The investigation then turned into a murder inquiry. “Your whole world folds in on itself. They told me this [was] a murder inquiry and I know I started shouting at that point, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no you’re wrong, she’s got to be alive,’” recalled Galsworthy.
Detectives withheld the receipts find from Matthews, increasing the pressure by saying his home had been forensically searched. DCI Ocone said: “I think it probably felt like he was battling against a rising tide, and actually, you could feel the evidence starting to come on top, and actually it was starting to weigh quite heavily.”
Matthews then confessed in a prepared statement that he’d used the circular saw to dismember Becky’s body in the bath. He admitted wrapping up the body parts and hiding them in a shed a few hundred metres from his home. DCI Ocone admits nothing prepared him for what they found there: “The nature of the find is horrific and shocking, I have never dealt with anything like this. And it will stay with me throughout my service, it will stay with me probably throughout my life.”
With Matthews claiming sole culpability, detectives couldn’t yet link Hoare to the murder. She was initially charged with perverting the course of justice, before a series of deleted texts were recovered from one of her phones. They revealed a disturbing motivation behind the murder - text messages between the pair talking about abducting young girls, taking them home and putting them in their loft. DCI Ocone says: “I think they showed that Shauna’s involvement was far tighter, far closer to actually what had happened... It suggested that she had been involved in the dismemberment and the packaging of Becky, after she’d been killed.”
Hoare received a 17-year sentence for manslaughter while Matthews was handed a life sentence with a minimum of 33 years after he was found guilty of murder.
Both were also convicted of kidnap, perverting the course of justice, preventing a lawful burial and possessing two stun gun torches.
The Murder of Becky Watts: Police Tapes airs on ITV on Thursday 9 November at 9pm.