Remembering some of Somerset’s most shocking crimes

All of the following high-profile murder cases have been reported on by the Somerset County Gazette since 1990…

Michael Kafton: Murder-suicide left six-year-old boy alone

Christine Kafton, a 36-year-old businesswoman, was murdered by her husband – dentist Michael Kafton – at their home in Stapleton in 1990.

Mr Kafton, 36, shot his wife with a rifle while their six-year-old son was present at the home they had owned for over two years.

Michael was later found dead in a rented car filled with exhaust fumes.

An article in the Somerset County Gazette from Friday, April 13, 1990, began: “Terrified and confused David Kafton is still helping detectives to piece together events which led to the brutal murder of his mother at the family’s luxury Staplegrove home.”

The six-year-old called 999 at 6:30am on Tuesday, April 10, and when the police arrived, they found Mrs Kafton dead in her bedroom in a pool of blood with a discharged shotgun nearby.

The shooting took place six weeks after the couple had separated.

Mrs Kafton, who owned clothes shops in Taunton and Exeter, had been living in Corfe.

Police said that Mrs Kafton went to the property in Stapleton to collect her son, who had been taken for a picnic by Mr Kafton earlier that day.

An article published in Weekly World News on July 17, 1990, said a jury had ruled that Mr Kafton was “mentally disturbed when he committed the shocking murder/suicide”.

The article quoted a witness, who told the inquest into the shooting: “Michael told me, ‘She’s ruined my life’.

“He said, ‘She hasn’t let me touch her for six years’. He’d been goaded by Christine about his infertility and she wanted more children. She was very unhappy.”

Another witness told the inquest that Mr Kafton had previously hit his wife, thrown a bucket of water over her, smashed their wedding photograph, and broken her car’s windscreen.

John Cannan: Newly-wed’s body found near Dead Woman’s Ditch

In October 1987, John Cannan bludgeoned factory worker Shirley Banks, 29, to death in Bristol and disposed of her body near Dead Woman’s Ditch on the Quantock Hills.

Cannan, a car salesman, had abducted her while she was on a shopping trip and is believed to have held her at his home in Bristol before killing her.

Cannan was connected with the murder after police arrested him for a knife-point assault in Leamington Spa a few weeks later and found the tax disc to Shirley’s car in his vehicle.

He is serving three life sentences for Shirley’s murder, the attempted kidnap of Julia Holman the night before, and the rape of a woman the previous year.

The judge who sentenced him recommended that he should never be released.

Chard & Ilminster News:

In March, the Gazette reported that Cannan’s former partners are scared that he could hunt them down if he is released when he is eligible for parole next year.

One of his ex-girlfriends, who he sexually attacked, says he managed to find her in 1986 three days after being released from prison, despite her getting married, changing her name and moving to a different part of the country.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, she said: I’m really scared to think he is so close to being released again. He is still capable of inflicting terrible damage. The thought of what he might do keeps me awake at night.”

Martin Corns: Stalker jailed for life after murdering a colleague

Martin Corns killed Heather Jordan, 34, after she rejected his advances and tore up his final love letter.

He lay in wait and strangled her as she crossed Lyngford Park in Taunton on her way to work at a cleaning job at 5:15am on Sunday, February 18, 2018.

He tried to make the attack look like a robbery by stealing her purse and dropping some of its contents nearby.

She had told her family and colleagues that she was going to lodge a formal complaint of sexual harassment against him on February 19.

He started spying on her home and following her around after they started working together as cleaners at Boots and became friends.

Chard & Ilminster News:

Corns, a divorcé, wanted a sexual relationship with Jordan and offered to marry her, but she said she only wanted a ‘committed friendship’.

She ended their relationship by text two days before her death.

Corns bombarded with her more than 2,000 texts and calls, watched her home, followed her around at work, and became increasingly possessive and jealous.

The court heard that Corns was convinced that Heather was seeing her Boots supervisor and refused to accept her denials.

A love letter he had written her, which she had torn up, was found scattered around her body before police put it back together.

The letter said: “I can’t wait to spend my life with you. Hopefully, that won’t be too long, my darling. Remember, I love you so, so much and always will.”

Corns was found guilty at Exeter Crown Court and sentenced to a minimum of 17 years.

Rafal Nowak: Imprisoned for killing his girlfriend for an insurance pay-out

Rafal Nowak murdered his girlfriend, Catherine Wells-Burr, 23, to try and claim her £123,000 life insurance pay-out and a half-share of their £137,000 house.

He smothered the business analyst as she slept at their home in Chard in September 2012.

They met on the production line of the Numatic International factory in Chard, where they were both working at the time.

Nowak was given a minimum prison sentence of 32 years.

Anna Lagwinowicz, Nowak’s ex-girlfriend he was having an affair with, and Tadevsz Dmytryszyn were given the same sentence.

Chard & Ilminster News:

Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn put Catherine’s body in her red Ford Focus and drove to a secluded lane in Ashill, placed the body in the driver’s seat, and set the car on fire at 6am – 20 minutes after Nowak clocked into work, hoping this would provide him with an alibi.

Nowak and Lagwinoqicz met up on 87 occasions to plan the murder and spoke hundreds of times on the phone using prepaid SIM cards.

Speaking after the sentencing, DCI Simon Crisp said: “We are extremely pleased with the life sentences handed to these three evil people, for the next 32 years they’ll have time to reflect on what they have done.”

Catherine’s family later set up the Catherine Wells-Burr foundation, a charity that raises money to provide specialist support workers for families of murder victims.

Kevin Baker: The estranged husband who believed that his wife was in another relationship

Kevin Baker, 35, killed his wife, Tracey Baker, 41, with a hammer before killing himself in their home in Chard on July 4, 2015.

Mr Baker was convinced that Mrs Baker, a hairdresser, had begun a new relationship.

After killing the mother-of-three by causing multiple blunt force head injuries, he took his own life with a ligature.

Mrs Baker’s father discovered their bodies in an upstairs bedroom of their home and contacted the police.

A blood-stained hammer and kitchen knife were found in the bedroom, but the court was told that the knife had not been used.

On the day of their deaths, Mrs Baker spent time with an old friend from school who she had recently contacted on Facebook.

Mrs Baker returned home alone and invited Mr Baker to the house. Their children were staying with Mr Baker’s parents.

Andrew Tavener: A tree surgeon who told his friends his intentions

Andrew Tavener stabbed his wife to death and left the couple’s two young sons to discover her body in January 2018.

Mr Tavener attacked Claire with a knife at their home in Nailsea overnight between January 7 and 8 before fleeing the scene.

The couple’s sons, aged six and three, discovered Mrs Tavener lying dead in the family’s house in the morning and called 999.

Mr Tavener attempted to take his own life by lying in front of a train at Nailsea and Blackwell Station.

He was arrested at the station and then spent four weeks in hospital after losing all of the fingers on his right hand, which happened when he was hit by a train.

He required two operations, including skin grafts.

The couple’s marriage had broken down, and Mrs Tavener had planned to move out of the family home.

She had previously been punched by her husband, who had also grabbed her around the neck and lifted her off the ground on one occasion.

On January 6, Mr Tavener told one of his friends at a pool tournament in Weymouth, Dorset: “I’m going to get a big knife and stab her… I didn’t just say that out loud, did I?”

He told another: “If she goes on at me like she did this morning I will f****** kill her.”

Mr Tavener was given a life sentence at Bristol Crown Court, and he was told he would serve a minimum of 16 years and eight months before being considered for release.

Remembering some of Somerset’s most shocking crimes

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