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A 41-year-old man who murdered his former partner back in 2012 has received a life sentence.
Last week a jury found Darren Osment guilty of Claire Holland’s murder.
Claire was last seen leaving the Seamus O’Donnell pub in Bristol on the evening of Wednesday 6 June 2012, telling other customers she was going to meet her former partner Osment, with whom she’d had a child.
Her disappearance prompted a significant missing persons enquiry, with more than 200 actions completed, but she was never found.
Seven years later, Osment called 999 from Exeter and told Devon and Cornwall Police he wanted to ‘hand himself in’ and get ‘the monkey off his back’, stating ‘it’s murder… I took the law into my own hands’.
This admission led to Claire’s disappearance being treated as a murder investigation, despite him backtracking on those comments when formally questioned by our officers.
We found Osment had made other admissions to people about Claire’s death but there was a lack of supporting evidence required to bring him before the courts.
The investigation into Osment continued and in 2020 we received authorisation to deploy an undercover officer to befriend him – an operation which lasted 20 months – during which vital evidence was recorded in which Osment made further confessions that helped to secure his conviction.
Osment, from Patchway, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years, with the judge, Mrs Justice Cutts DBE, commending the undercover officer and the investigation team.
Addressing Osment during the sentencing hearing, Justice Cutts said: “For 11 long years no one, except you, knew what had happened to Claire.
“There was an extensive police missing persons investigation which failed to find her. You were spoken to in the course of that investigation.
“You could and should have told the police what had happened. You could and should have admitted that you killed Claire. You did not.
“You left her family with the agony of not knowing where she was or what had happened.”
She added: “You could and should have told [the police] and Claire’s family what you did with her body. In your cowardice you have never done so.
“You have shown not a shred of remorse. Rather you spoke, in an effort to justify what you had done, about Claire in the most derogatory terms, blaming her for your actions.”
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Darren Hannant said: “Today marks the final stage of the criminal process, more than 11-and-a-half years after Claire Holland was last seen in Bristol city centre.
“Claire was clearly a much-loved daughter, sister and mother, who has missed out on the chance of knowing the grandchildren she would now have. She was turning her life around until Darren Osment snatched it away from her.
“We are hugely appreciative of the support we have received from Claire’s family throughout, from when she was reported missing right through to today’s sentencing. They never gave up hope and I am pleased for them that we have been able to bring Osment, a violent misogynistic murderer, to justice.
“Osment’s continual refusal to be honest about what he did means we’re still unable to provide clarity to Claire’s family about what happened to her body after he killed her. I sincerely hope in time Osment does explain fully what he did because Claire’s family and friends need to know. Sadly, knowing what we do about Osment, I find it hard to believe he is capable of doing the decent thing.
“We can only hope the principles of Helen’s Law will prevail, which ensures killers who do not disclose the location of the remains of any victim can have this used against them when it comes to applying for parole.”
Det Supt Hannant continued: “Osment’s conviction and life sentence follows an exhaustive investigation. More than 1,700 hours of CCTV footage – the equivalent of 70 full days – was collated during the missing person’s investigation in 2012, which had to be painstakingly reviewed following Osment’s confession to Devon and Cornwall Police four years ago.
“Even then we still required vital evidence from a lengthy undercover operation to get to the truth about what Osment did, with more than 1,200 hours of recordings. This operation required the careful coordination of many aspects of covert policing, alongside the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and frequent consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, to ensure that tactics were applied to fairly obtain admissible evidence.
“That officer put his safety at risk to gather vital information and exemplifies the lengths gone to during this complex investigation.
“It has been a comprehensive and collective effort and we hope the answers we have been able to provide Claire’s family help bring them some peace and justice, which they sorely deserve after so many years of not knowing what happened.”