A spurned lover stalked his ex-girlfriend before murdering her at her home in Portslade and starting a fire to try to cover his tracks.
Michael Lane, 27, became obsessed with 19-year-old Shana Grice, placed a tracker on her car and stole her back door key, turning up at her home uninvited.
Lane, of Thornhill Rise, Portslade, was cautioned by Sussex Police although after another incident officers gave Miss Grice a fixed penalty notice for wasting police time. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is looking into the case.
Lane denies murdering Miss Grice and his barrister even hinted that her boyfriend Ash Cooke may have killed her.
Mr Cooke asked for a break during his evidence as Simon Russell Flint, Lane’s counsel, suggested that Mr Cooke was the last person to have seen her alive.
Earlier today (Wednesday 8 March) the jury was sworn in at Lewes Crown Court and the judge, Sir Nicholas Green, also known as Mr Justice Green, told the seven women and five men: “In this case it is common ground that Shana Grice was murdered. No one doubts that.
“Michael Lane says that it was not him that killed her. That is the heart of the issue in this case. Was it Michael Lane?”
Philip Bennetts, prosecuting, said that Miss Grice and Mr Cooke started a relationship in 2013.
In 2015 she started work at Brighton Fire Alarms where she met Lane. Mr Bennetts said: “It appears that in the summer of 2015 a relationship developed between the two.
“Shana ended the relationship with Ashley Cooke in April 2016. Later that year Michael Lane and Shana Grice became girlfriend and boyfriend. It is clear that they were find of each other.
“It was perhaps because of Michael Lane’s behaviour that by August the relationship was not so good.
“On (Tuesday) 23 August Michael Lane and Shana Grice met. It was decided that they should go their separate ways. Shana Grice wanted to pursue a relationship with Ashley Cooke.
“Unfortunately Michael Lane had become obsessed by Shana. During their relationship he stalked her. He put a tracker on her car and followed her movements.
“That obsession translated into killing her. He would not allow anyone else to be with her.”
Mr Bennetts told the jury that Lane displayed “bizarre behaviour” during their on-off relationship.
In February last year Miss Grice contacted Sussex Police to report being stalked by Lane. Her car was damaged. Lane was spoken to by the police and warned to stay away from Miss Grice.
Mr Cooke reported damage to his car. A note was left which said: “Dear Ash, Shana has and always will cheat on you.”
In March the defendant turned up at Miss Grice’s home with her two housemates, having met them at the Mile Oak pub. She was unhappy that he was there and when she left the bungalow in Chrisdory Road, Mile Oak, he followed her. He grabbed her phone away from her ear and pulled her hair.
In July he stole her back door key. The next morning he let himself in at about 6am.
Miss Grice was in bed “when she heard noises and footsteps approaching her bedroom”. She hid under her duvet and pretended to be asleep while Lane stood there. When he left she looked out of the window and saw Lane.
Mr Bennetts said: “Later that day Lane was arrested. He was in possession of the back door key. He was issued with a caution.”
Lane told a friend that Miss Grice had “gone back to her ex” and he was not happy about it. On Saturday 20 August he told the same friend: “She’ll pay for what she’s done.”
Three days later they spent some time together in a hotel in Hove and agreed that their relationship was over but Lane wouldn’t accept it.
Mr Bennetts said that Mr Cooke stayed with Miss Grice at her home overnight on Thursday 25 August, leaving on the Friday morning.
He said: “After Ashley Cooke had left her address Michael Lane went into that address and he slit her throat. And, intending to destroy any evidence that he had been there, he set fire to the room.
“In the event the fire didn’t destroy the room.”
When Shana failed to arrive for work, a colleague contacted Ash Cooke. He phoned his sister Aimee who found a bloody footprint on the doorstep at the bungalow and called the police and her father Ian Cooke.
He told the jury how he could smell smoke through the letterbox and was “banging and screaming”, calling Miss Grice’s name and desperately trying to get into the property.
He was surprised to find that the front door was unlocked and walked into a smoky haze but said: “It was hard to see and breathe. I could see her bedroom door. The door was shut.
“I tried to get to the door. I came out to get my breath. We got some air quickly. Then we went back in.”
With his sister-in-law Debbie Kennard he reached Miss Grice’s bedroom where he found the door wedged shut and the smoke alarm dismantled.
He said: “We couldn’t really see. The room was full of smoke and very hazy. We were shouting out Shana’s name, struggling to see and breathe. Then we went back outside.”
When he went back in the room was clearing slightly. He said: “I saw the bed. At first I thought there was a duvet or sleeping bag rolled up on the bed. Then I realised it was a body.
“I saw Shana face down with her arms to her side and bits of the alarm.
“Me and Debbie looked at each other in shock and horror and said, ‘Oh, my God’ and ran out of the room because we needed to breathe.
“The whole street was filling up with neighbours. The police and paramedics arrived and I told them what I saw.”
Ash Cooke also gave evidence, saying that he woke up at Miss Grice’s home on the morning she died and went home to change his clothes for work.
Mr Russell Flint said: “That morning was she shouting at you? I’m going to suggest there was shouting from that house that morning. Was that you?”
Mr Cooke said: “No.”
Mr Russell Flint said: “For the door to be locked requires the key actually to be turned. Somebody needs to lock the door?”
Mr Cooke said: “Yes.”
Mr Russell Flint said: “When you left her room was she alive?”
Mr Cooke said: “Yes.”
Mr Russell Flint said: “Are you sure?”
Mr Cooke said: “Yes.”
Mr Russell Flint said: “The door was left unlocked after you had left. Normally she would have locked it?”
Mr Cooke said: “Yes.”
Mr Russell Flint said: “If she were alive. On this occasion the door was unlocked?”
After a brief break Mr Russell Flint resumed the cross-examination. He had already asked about confrontations between the defendant and Mr Cooke.
He asked about Mr Cooke’s movements after leaving Miss Grice’s home and before he started work – and when he was by himself and near Chrisdory Road.
The prosecution’s case is that the forensic evidence and CCTV footage points to Lane, a tyre and exhaust fitter for Setyres, being the killer.
The trial continues.
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