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Man jailed for life for the murder of Sarah Ashwell

Custody image of Antanas Jankauskas
Antanas Jankauskas

A man has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 14 years and 10 months after admitting murdering 47-year-old Sarah Ashwell in Wells.

Antanas Jankauskas, 39, of Wookey, admitted his crime at a hearing at Bristol Crown Court today, Thursday 10 March.

The court heard a personal statement giving the impact on Sarah’s family, describing the devastation and heartbreak of her parents at having their only child taken from them and the effect on Sarah’s two sons.

“Who gave you the right to take her life? … You knew she had two young children and people that loved her.

“The boys have lost their mummy. One day she was watching her son’s rugby match, the next day they are told she is dead. How can you live with that?

“Sarah used to talk about the boys getting married one day and having children of their own. She would wonder what their partners would be like. Now Sarah will never meet those partners and will never know what it is like being a grandparent.

“There will always be questions all through [the boys’] lives. They will have to live with the fact that people will want to know what happened to their mother.

“We will never have Sarah back and the last minutes of Sarah’s life haunt me and will until the day I die.”

Excerpt from the statement of Sarah’s mother heard by the court

The Honorary Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Peter Blair QC said in his sentencing remarks that Jankauskas had deprived Sarah’s children of their mother and their mother’s love, adding that everyone in court would have been greatly moved by the family’s impact statement.

Sarah was found dead on Sunday 7 November 2021 at her home in South Street. The Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT) launched a murder investigation during the course of which four men were arrested on suspicion of murder, including Jankauskas, and a fifth on suspicion of assisting an offender.

All were eliminated from the enquiry except for Jankauskas, who was charged with her murder and appeared before magistrates on Saturday 13 November.

Detective Superintendent Gary Haskins led the investigation, which involved more than 100 officers and police staff from across the Avon and Somerset police service.

He said: “Sarah’s life was taken by someone she had known and trusted. I want to pay tribute to Sarah’s family for their dignity and strength after facing every parent’s nightmare.

“Throughout our investigation we developed a picture of Sarah as person – someone who was a well-loved mother, daughter and friend. I hope that those who loved Sarah can now start to build a new future for her sons, while keeping her memory alive.

“This was a complex enquiry but through the painstaking work of forensic examination, digital investigation, house-to-house and CCTV enquiries we gave the Crown Prosecution Service the evidence to build an incontrovertible case.”

Avon and Somerset Police made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) due to recent police contact with Sarah before her death. Now that criminal proceedings have concluded, the IOPC will carry out its independent investigation.