A jury has convicted a 41-year-old man from South Gloucestershire with the murder of Claire Holland.
Claire, 32, from Lawrence Weston, was last seen alive on the evening of Wednesday 6 June 2012, when she left the Seamus O’Donnell’s pub in St Nicholas Street, Bristol.
Following an 11-week trial, Darren Osment, from Patchway, has been found guilty by a majority verdict of murdering his former partner, after a jury heard he made multiple confessions, including to an undercover police officer. Claire’s body has never been found. He will be sentenced on Wednesday 20 December.
During the trial, the jury heard from witnesses, including a former partner and a former work colleague, to whom Osment had disclosed key details of the crime. They also heard a confession in Osment’s own words, which he made after calling 999 in July 2019. He told the operator, “I’m handing myself in…not a good look for me, it’s murder…I took the law into my own hands.”
When officers located him, recording the interaction on Body Worn Video, he told them, “I had her killed…I just want to get it off my back and I put my hands up. I’ve had enough now, do you know what I mean? What will be, will be.”
Claire was reported missing on Thursday 14 June 2012, sparking a significant police investigation which included a city-wide CCTV trawl, underwater searches, house-to-house enquiries, financial and mobile phone checks, as well as publicity and media appeals. Statements were taken from family members, all former partners, professionals who had contact with Claire, and pub customers.
In the space of four months, more than 200 investigative actions were carried out, but no evidence could be found to indicate what happened to Claire after she vanished.
After July 2019, when Darren Osment phoned 999 to make a confession, Claire’s disappearance was treated as a murder investigation. While Osment went on to deny any involvement in Claire’s death, the investigation into him continued and in 2020 the decision was made to deploy an undercover officer to befriend him – an operation which lasted 20 months.
VIDEO: Claire’s sister Sarah Holland and the lead officer talk about the dreadful impact of this crime and how it was solved.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Darren Hannant, said: “The evidence we’ve gathered painstakingly over the last four years has proven that Osment is a selfish and violent misogynist who has abused almost everyone he has been close to.
“Our investigation found he’d made repeated confessions to others about his involvement in Claire’s murder, but because of a lack of supporting evidence, a decision was made to obtain authorisation for the deployment of an undercover officer, with the express aim of uncovering the truth about Claire’s disappearance, and in the hope of finding her body.
“The evidence and recorded footage gathered by the officer exposed Osment’s disturbing and hateful character and most importantly, details about the murder that otherwise would have remained unknown.
“This operation required the careful coordination of many aspects of covert policing, alongside the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and frequent in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, to ensure that tactics were applied to fairly obtain admissible evidence.
“Due to the real risks posed to the officer in the event of the operation being compromised, the investigation team were unaware of the deployment until July 2022, when a decision was made to re-arrest Osment, after which he was charged with Claire’s murder.
“The evidence gathered by the undercover officer, along with the witness evidence, phone data, and missing person investigation records, proved that Osment was responsible for this crime.
“We discovered he had lured Claire to the pub where he worked as a chef in Clifton on the evening of Wednesday 6 June, 2012. He killed her and then disposed of her body, we believe most likely in water. He got rid of the physical evidence, through burning his clothes and disposing of a knife he claimed to have used.
“It was a brutal and pre-meditated crime motivated by his intense hatred of Claire, who he blamed for having their child taken into care.
“The undercover officer put his safety at risk to expose Osment’s offending. He spent hours in his company and in doing so, was able to gather vital evidence to achieve justice for Claire and her family. The covert material showed Osment’s actions on the night, and how the reality of what he had done had affected him. He was both disgusted by, and felt justification for, his actions, and on one occasion was physically sick when he saw a televised police appeal for witnesses.
“I’m in no doubt, Darren Osment (pictured below) is a danger to women, and our communities are a safer place with him behind bars.”
Det Supt Hannant added: “This investigation has been extensive and complex, so it’s important to recognise the efforts of all those involved in achieving this outcome. The undercover officer who put his safety at risk to gather vital information, those who worked tirelessly to support him and review material throughout the operation, and members of the investigation team who have greatly contributed to this outcome.
“We know our investigation and the subsequent court proceedings have had a profound and emotional impact on Claire’s family. They are always in our thoughts. The support and strength they have shown in the very worst of circumstances has been admirable.
“While we don’t expect Darren Osment to tell us where Claire’s body is, we can only hope the principles of Helen’s Law will prevail. This law ensures that criminals who do not disclose the location of the remains of their victim can have this used against them when it comes to applying for parole. We’ll have to wait to see if this materialises, but for the sake of Claire’s family, there remains the hope this will provide them with the information they so desperately need.”
Ben Samples, Senior District Crown Prosecutor for CPS South West, said: “This was a heinous crime and Claire’s family have endured over a decade of pain as Osment sought to conceal his crimes by weaving a web of deceit, all while cruelly refusing to provide any information which would help locate Claire’s body.
“Murder cases where a body has not yet been recovered are notoriously complex, because it is harder to prove a murder has been committed and there is less evidence to pin the crime to a suspect – so prosecutors must think outside the box.
“Piece by piece, we worked with police to present a compelling case to the jury which made clear that this was ‘foul play’ and that only Osment had the motive to commit murder.
“We know that today’s result won’t bring Claire back, but we hope that knowing justice has been served will bring comfort to her family as they continue to grieve her loss.”