Serial killer obsessive, 30, who cut victim into pieces in 'flat of horrors' guilty of murder

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·6 min read
Julia Rawson, left, was murdered by Nathan Maynard-Ellis and his partner. (PA/West Midlands Police)
Julia Rawson, left, was murdered by Nathan Maynard-Ellis and his partner. (PA/West Midlands Police)

A former film student and his boyfriend have been found guilty of murdering a woman and cutting her body into 11 pieces in a “flat of horrors”.

Serial killer obsessive Nathan Maynard-Ellis, 30, was accused of killing Julia Rawson in a “culmination of years of pent-up fantasy and desire” on the weekend of 11 May, 2019.

His boyfriend of about seven years, 25-year-old David Leesley, was also accused of the 42-year-old’s murder.

Both denied the charge, but on Monday a jury found both men guilty of murder. Maynard-Ellis was also convicted of four rape charges, one of attempted rape and one of making threats to kill in relation to a historical allegation made by a woman after he was arrested.

Coventry Crown Court previously heard that Maynard-Ellis, who studied film and TV, met Rawson by chance at a pub in Dudley, West Midlands.

Nathan Maynard-Ellis, left, and David Leesley have been found guilty of murder. (West Midlands Police)
Nathan Maynard-Ellis, left, and David Leesley have been found guilty of murder. (West Midlands Police)

He took her in a taxi to his flat in Tipton, which contained stuffed creatures, snakes and home-made masks, jurors were told.

Ornamental weaponry, balaclavas, a folding dagger, crossed swords and axes were in the tiny flat, a prosecutor said, alongside a model of somebody holding a knife. Swords and spiders were mounted on the wall.

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Karim Khalil QC said at the start of the trial: “The prosecution case can be stated quite shortly – for many years Maynard-Ellis has harboured dark thoughts that have focused mainly on the sexual assault of women and their violent killing.

“He has shown a particular interest in certain themes involving serial killers and the dismemberment of bodies.

“His boyfriend, David Leesley, knew of these interests, since their flat was full of printed materials, DVDs and videos about serial killers and the violent sexual abuse of women.”

He described the prosecution’s allegation that killing Rawson “wasn’t enough” for the pair, who he said dismembered her body before putting her parts into black plastic bags and hiding them in undergrowth by a nearby canal.

Julia Rawson's body was found dismembered last year. (PA/West Midlands Police)
Julia Rawson's body was found dismembered last year. (PA/West Midlands Police)
A workbench, tools and doll's heads found at the home of Nathan Maynard-Ellis in Tipton. (PA/West Midlands Police)
A workbench, tools and doll's heads found at the home of Nathan Maynard-Ellis in Tipton. (PA/West Midlands Police)

Khalil said the parts were found in two places in June 2019, having potentially been cut with more than one tool.

The victim’s right kidney was missing, possibly because of deliberate removal or decomposition.

Her hands and feet were removed but Khalil told jurors that “would not have helped with disposal”.

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“We suggest that this scale of dismemberment points clearly towards the gruesome fantasy aspect of this case, rather than towards any practical necessity after the death,” he said.

Khalil said both men got rid of a bloodstained sofa, hid rugs in a storage unit and burned clothing to cover up what happened.

Both carried on behaving normally, meeting their families, going to work and visiting the pub, he said.

“He [Maynard-Ellis] knew what he wanted to do and he intended to do exactly what he did – it was the culmination of years of pent-up fantasy and desire,” Khalil said, saying the defendant was not experiencing a “heightened psychiatric panic” at the time.

The Bottle and Cork pub in Dudley, West Midlands, where Nathan Maynard-Ellis is alleged to have encountered Julia Rawson by chance. (PA)
The Bottle and Cork pub in Dudley, West Midlands, where Nathan Maynard-Ellis is alleged to have encountered Julia Rawson by chance. (PA)

In a separate set of charges, prosecutors alleged Maynard-Ellis raped a woman after walking along a canal in the West Midlands.

In a video, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he pointed at a spot and told her that he would hide her body there if he killed her, before making her remove her clothing and raping her.

Maynard-Ellis said he was involved in Rawson’s death but denied murder, and admitted concealment of a corpse and perverting the course of justice by replacing the bloodstained carpet at the flat.

A bin used to burn clothing which had the blood of Julia Rawson on it. (West Midlands Police/PA)
A bin used to burn clothing had the blood of Julia Rawson on it. (West Midlands Police/PA)

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Leesley has admitted the same but said he had no part in Rawson’s death and blamed his boyfriend, jurors were told.

Maynard-Ellis, who collected newspaper clippings and books about serial killers, has seen psychiatrists about his violent sexual fantasies, jurors were told.

He said he hit Rawson with a rolling pin after she made “moves” towards him and he denied raping or threatening the unnamed woman.

A stretch of canal near Mission Drive in Tipton, West Midlands, which Nathan Maynard-Ellis and David Leesley were alleged to have walked along carrying the dismembered remains of Julia Rawson. (PA)
A stretch of canal near Mission Drive in Tipton, West Midlands, which Nathan Maynard-Ellis and David Leesley were alleged to have walked along carrying the dismembered remains of Julia Rawson. (PA)

In an account made to a psychiatrist, Maynard-Ellis said he took Rawson to the bathroom to wash her injuries but realised she was dead.

He has been diagnosed with depression and Asperger’s syndrome.

The defendant, who achieved a distinction in a special effects and film course, denied wanting to re-enact the movies and books found in his flat, saying he used them to “make costumes and masks and things – but not to act them out”.

Items found in the "flat of horrors". (PA/West Midlands Police)
Items found in the 'flat of horrors'. (PA/West Midlands Police)

He “just wasn’t happy” after being bullied at school and stopped taking his medication about a week before Rawson’s death, he told the court.

Speaking about his mask-making, he said: “It started with me doing charity events for Halloween.

“Somebody in my friend’s family had had cancer and they were trying to raise funds for a cancer ward.

“I was asked originally to make costumes and do people’s make-up and prosthetics.”

After the verdict was delivered, Mr Justice Soole said to the jury: “It has been a very demanding case because of the subject matter; I am very conscious of that.”

Rawson’s family said she was “easy-going and quick to make friends”, and a talented artist and musician.

“Her death has had a devastating impact on us, the mutilation of her body and the callous way in which her remains were scattered has revolted us. We can only pray Julia knew nothing about these abhorrent acts,” relatives said in a statement.

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