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20 December 2023

Judge urges pub chef jailed for murdering ex-partner to reveal where her body is

20 December 2023

A judge has urged a pub chef convicted of murdering his former partner 11 years ago to reveal what he did and where her remains might be found so she can be laid to rest.

Darren Osment, 41, has finally been brought to justice for killing mother-of-four Claire Holland, 32, in Bristol in June 2012, following a lengthy undercover policing investigation.

Ms Holland, whose body has never been recovered, was last seen leaving the Seamus O’Donnell’s pub in the city centre on the evening of June 6.

The case was treated as a missing person’s inquiry for seven years until Osment – who a judge described as “haunted” by what he had done – rang 999 while living in Exeter, Devon, in July 2019.

Osment claimed he had arranged for Ms Holland to be killed and was arrested but later released under investigation after denying any involvement in her disappearance during police interviews.

In 2020, Avon and Somerset Police decided to send in an undercover officer using the name Paddy O’Hara to befriend Osment, then living in Patchway, Bristol, to find out what happened to Ms Holland.

The undercover investigation between December 2020 and July 2022 saw the officer pose as someone involved in the criminal underworld with links to organised crime.

His conversations with Osment were covertly recorded, amounting to more than 1,200 hours of footage, including repeated confessions relating to Ms Holland from the father-of-two.

Osment was arrested and charged with Ms Holland’s murder in August 2022. He pleaded not guilty to the offence but was convicted by a jury at Bristol Crown Court by a majority verdict last week.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a televised hearing, Mrs Justice Cutts sentenced Osment to life and ordered him to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison.

She told Osment that Ms Holland was a “warm and vivacious person who was deeply loved” and was starting a new chapter in her life when she was murdered.

The judge said: “For 11 long years no-one, except you, knew what had happened to Claire. She went missing on the night of June 6 2012, never contacting her family or her children again.

“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.

“Yet it is clear that you could not live with the burden of what you had done.

“I accept the prosecution case that you were haunted by it and, seeking to relieve the burden of what you did, you have made confessions over the years – to six people in all.

“Had you truly been remorseful you would have told the police and faced the consequences of your crime.”

Osment and Ms Holland, described as alcoholics at the time, met in 2008 and had a child two years later. That child was taken into care shortly after birth.

Mrs Justice Cutts told Osment it was clear he blamed Ms Holland for that, adding that they were both responsible for the fact the child could not be cared for at home.

She said Osment had thrown Ms Holland down the stairs shortly after she gave birth, had previously strangled her and she feared he would kill her.

The judge described Osment as a “vile drunk”, adding: “You are quick to temper and abusive and violent to women. Claire was on the receiving end of that violence.”

Ms Holland had phoned Osment on June 6, asking to meet to discuss their child. The judge said they arranged to meet later that day, with Ms Holland “vulnerable” as it was late at night and she had been drinking.

Osment is believed to have killed Ms Holland, probably by strangulation, after they argued.

The judge told him that he should have told police what happened at the time and over the years that followed.

“You could and should have told them 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,” she said.

“I am sure on the evidence that you were responsible for the dismembering and disposal of Claire’s body and, given your reaction around water, that you disposed of her body in the water.

“For Claire’s family’s sake and for the sake of your child, I urge you for once to stand up to what you have done in the very near future and to disclose what you did and where her body might be found so that she may be laid to rest.”

As Osment was taken down to the cells, he unfolded a piece of paper with the word “innocent” written on it in black pen and held it to the glass of the dock.

The judge commended officers involved in the investigation, including the undercover officer known only by his pseudonym, Paddy O’Hara.

In victim personal statements, the family of Ms Holland asked Osment to disclose the location of her remains.

Her sister Michaela Holland told him: “Darren, I want you to know that you have destroyed our family. We have so many questions. What were her last words? Did she see it coming? Did she suffer?

“If you have got it in your heart, please, tell us where she is. After eleven years, we just want to lay her to rest.”

Another sister, Sarah Holland, said: “Claire never got a final resting place, this was something else that was stolen from her. Nowhere for the family to go to grieve or pay our respects.

“Claire has missed eleven Christmases. However, this Christmas, Claire will be right with us celebrating that her story has been heard and justice paid.”

Ms Holland’s daughter, Rosie Holland-Hall, told Osment: “I will never forgive you for what you have done and the damage you have caused.”

In footage from the undercover investigation, Osment is shown suggesting to Mr O’Hara that he had killed Ms Holland, cut her body up with a knife, and dumped her remains in water.

Osment appears to suggest he weighted down Ms Holland’s remains so they would not come “floating back”.

Detective Superintendent Darren Hannant, the senior investigating officer, described Osment as a “violent misogynistic murderer”.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The officer described the undercover investigation as “vital” and paid tribute to Paddy O’Hara for putting his safety at risk to gather information from Osment.

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