Man who brutally murdered girlfriend on night he proposed to her jailed for life
A man who murdered his girlfriend in a jealous rage because she had texted her other lover on the night he proposed to her has been jailed for life with a minimum of 23 years.
Mark Brandford, 49, stabbed and used a crowbar to murder Kayleigh Dunning while she was naked in his bed on the night of December 16, 2019.
The 32-year-old was reported missing by her dad after she stopped responding to messages and calls from family and didn’t show up at work the next day.
The following morning, just after 5am, Brandford left the house to go to work and only called 999 when he got home at 9.40pm that day.
Paramedics who attended the scene said they saw him putting his fingers down his throat to make himself gag and retch, the trial was told.
Brandford, a road sweeper from Portsmouth, Hampshire, had flown into a jealous rage when he found out that, on the night he had proposed to her, she had been sending “affectionate” messages to another man, Dean Drooney, who she was still seeing.
Ms Dunning had accidentally called him by Mr Drooney’s name.
Sentencing Brandford, Judge Timothy Mousley QC said the murder was “premeditated and planned” and told him: “You have shown no emotion let alone any remorse.”
The judge said that by setting up a Facebook account to post intimate images of his victim, Brandford showed all the hallmarks of attempting to “control and coerce” Ms Dunning.
He added: “Kayleigh was described by her friends and relatives as vulnerable, sensitive and needing guidance.
“Her mother says she was feisty and would not back down from an argument. She was popular and well-liked.”
During the trial Simon Jones, prosecuting, told the court Mr Drooney had sent Ms Dunning a message saying: “Night Noodle, wuv you”.
She replied: “Night night, wuv you more Doodle, xxx”.
Branford then launched into a “brutal and ferocious attack”, hitting her on the head and neck.
Ms Dunning’s skull was crushed and the major artery in her neck was severed.
During the trial Brandford told the court: “I was jealous because she had told me she had left him.”
The court heard that Brandford hit her 30 times with a crowbar before stabbing her nine times.
Mr Jones described how Brandford had also sent intimate photos of Ms Dunning to friends, family and colleagues, with the aim of controlling her by making her more emotionally and financially reliant on him.
The court heard that Brandford pretended to be someone else to send intimate photos of Ms Dunning to friends and family.
He also set up a fake Facebook account in her name in the months before her death in a bid to “control her”.
He said: “The defendant sought to target Kayleigh’s employers in terms of sending sexual images of Kayleigh to them.
“One of those images was a completely naked and unconscious Kayleigh, a photo he took on a trip to the Isle of Wight.
“The defendant was trying to create the illusion that Kayleigh had a stalker and that was something he could put the blame on to cover up for the murder.”
Mr Jones said that when Ms Dunning reported the “stalker” to police, she told officers: “This whole situation has left me feeling so down and upset, I am going back to my GP as I am so depressed.
“I could have lost my job and I am so embarrassed by how many people are seeing intimate photos of videos of me, including my own brother.”
Ms Dunning’s grieving family said in a tribute released by police: “Our precious daughter Kayleigh Louise Dunning – taken so suddenly.
“It has ripped our whole world apart. You never expect to bury your own child.
“Her brother has lost his best friend. She was so kind and thoughtful. As long as her mum, dad and brother were fine she was happy.
“The hardest thing is not being able to hear her voice and laughter, and not to cuddle her.
“Our life will never be the same.
“We are devastated and only people who have lost a child would understand how we feel.
“There are not enough words to explain how we feel.
“Rest in peace baby girl.
“You are always in our hearts and thoughts. We miss you so much.”
At the end of February a jury convicted Brandford of murder.
He was also convicted of a revenge porn charge of disclosing private sexual photos with the intent to cause distress to self-employed cleaner Ms Dunning between October 2018 and the time of her death.
He was handed a concurrent 21 month sentence for the revenge porn offence.