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Man jailed for hair salon murder
A man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death at the hair salon where she worked has been jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 24 years in prison.
Asher Maslin, 22, murdered Hollie Gazzard, 20, while she was working at Fringe Benefits & La Bella Beauty in Gloucester city centre at 5.47pm on February 18.
The former security guard arrived at the salon armed with a £3 carving knife he had purchased hours earlier to confront Miss Gazzard after she ended their relationship.
Staff and customers tried to protect Miss Gazzard but Maslin cornered the hairdresser by the salon's reception desk before stabbing her 14 times in front of them.
Police were already on their way to the salon, as Miss Gazzard had asked colleagues to immediately dial 999 if Maslin turned up.
Officers, who were on the scene within minutes, desperately tried to save Miss Gazzard but she was declared dead at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital at 6.51pm.
Maslin, who fled the store after attacking Miss Gazzard, discarded the Wilkinson's knife at a nearby building site and changed his clothes before taking a taxi to a friend's house.
He was arrested at the property at 2.19am the next day and later admitted a charge of murdering Miss Gazzard.
Mr Justice Teare sentenced Maslin at Gloucester Crown Court today.
Prosector Stephen Mooney told the court that in the minute and 52 seconds Maslin was in the salon he inflicted 14 stab wounds on Miss Gazzard. She also suffered more wounds as she tried to defend herself from the "brutal and sustained" attack.
The judge said: "The number of stab of wounds on a defenceless young woman show that this was a merciless killing. It was carried out in public, witnessed by customers of the salon, colleagues of Hollie Gazzard and by passers-by.
"Hollie Gazzard was 20 years of age and at the start of her adult life. As her father said 'the world was at her feet'.
"Her family has lost a daughter and a sister. Hollie's father and sister have described the devastating effect Hollie's death has had on them and on other members of the family. Her death has been felt throughout Gloucester as is shown by the circumstance that over 900 mourners attended her funeral at the cathedral."
As he was taken down, Maslin nodded to his weeping family and said: "Sorry."
Members of Miss Gazzards's family, including her parents and sister, were composed but emotional throughout the hearing.
Miss Gazzard suffered multiple wounds to her neck, chest and torso and died as a result of massive blood loss.
Maslin bought the knife from a branch of Wilkinson's in Gloucester after selling a DVD player at Cash Converters for £5 earlier that day.
Mr Mooney said Miss Gazzard met Maslin in February last year while working in a nightclub. They moved to Edgware in north London and later Watford, before returning to Gloucester in July, as she wanted to be near her family.
He said: ''It was then that the defendant became violent towards her and he grabbed her around the throat after a night out."
The court heard that he also hit her in November but Miss Gazzard did not report either incident to the police.
Mr Mooney said the ''last straw'' in the relationship was when Maslin kicked her in January this year.
Miss Gazzard and Maslin met for a meal at Prezzo in Gloucester city centre on February 14 and she told him the relationship was over, the court heard.
''He gave her his provisonal driving licence and his mobile phone and told her he no longer needed them as he was going to kill himself,'' Mr Mooney said.
Maslin stole her cash card and later took £300 from her bank account using the pin number Miss Gazzard had previously given him.
Maslin texted her: ''This poxy £300 means nothing to me.''
He sent her other messages, including: ''I am going to come into your house now. Going to smash your house up.''
Another said: ''It's Asher, give me a ring now or dis bat is going to hit your dad's head.''
The day before Miss Gazzard died, Maslin sent her a text message, which said: " Hollie ring my phone or call. I don't want to get f****** violent as I'll take it too far.''
The judge said: "On February 16 you sent her text messages threatening violence, she went to the police and contemplated obtaining an injunction to protect herself from you.
"On February 18 in the afternoon you bought a carving knife in Gloucester for £3 and walked to the hairdressing salon where she worked."
Mr Justice Teare said Maslin insisted he had bought the knife for his own protection, a claim he was "unable to accept".
"Your text messages to her and your deliberate walk to her place of work show that you had hostile intentions towards her," the judge said.
"You arrived at the salon at 5.47pm and you stabbed her repeatedly.
"She sustained 14 stab wounds to her neck, back and chest. Her lungs, arteries and heart were wounded.
"You left at 5.49pm."
The judge said Maslin had taken cocaine and crack cocaine in the two to three days before the killing.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating contact between Miss Gazzard and Gloucestershire Police prior to her murder.
The watchdog said the first of the two incidents involving the force and Miss Gazzard and Maslin occurred in July 2013 when CCTV operators witnessed Maslin grab her by the throat in Gloucester.
In the second incident Miss Gazzard called the police on February 15 this year to report that Maslin had stolen her bank card. He subsequently stole money from her account using the card.
IPCC investigators are reviewing the action taken after each of the incidents to see whether the potential risk Miss Gazzard faced was correctly graded and the appropriate action taken to protect her.
The force's training and policies are also being reviewed to see if there are any improvements the force can make in these areas.
IPCC investigators have recovered and reviewed all relevant material from the force including recordings of emergency calls, incident logs and copies of risk assessments.
Statements have also been taken from members of Miss Gazzard's family who were present when officers initially attended after she called to report the theft of her bank card and when they returned the following day.
As part of the investigation two police officers and a call handler have been served with misconduct notices informing them their actions are under investigation.
Statements were received from each of the officers, and they along with the call handler have been interviewed by IPCC investigators.
Associate Commissioner Guido Liguori said: "I would like to offer my condolences to Hollie's family and friends, at what will undoubtedly be a difficult time for them.
"Our investigation is progressing well, and once concluded we hope it will answer the question of whether Gloucestershire Police could or should have done more to protect her."
Steven Young, a solicitor representing the Maslin family, read a statement on behalf of Maslin's mother, Sam, outside court.
"Hollie's death has been a tragedy," the statement said.
"She was a beautiful young woman and there was a time that she and Asher loved each other.
"We welcomed her to our home and she was a pleasure to be with.
"Asher cannot explain why he did what he did. All he can now do is express through us his deeply felt sorrow for the pain which he has caused to so many people.
"Hollie's family has acted with dignity throughout these awful months since her death and we have been proud to support them in their efforts to try to ensure that no more parents, brothers and sisters have to go through such a nightmare.
"We would like to thank all those people who have supported us and we hope Hollie and her family can find some peace now that the case is finished."
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Bean, who led the investigation, said: "This horrific and violent attack was a spiteful and cowardly reaction by a self-obsessed individual who couldn't handle rejection.
"At the heart of this, though, is a young woman whose life was so cruelly cut short.
"You only have to look at the public reaction to this to see how much Hollie was loved and admired.
"The very public nature of her death has affected a great many people right across Gloucestershire and beyond.
"On behalf the investigation team and Gloucestershire Police, I would like to pay a special tribute to Hollie's family, who have shown immense strength, patience and dignity during a truly horrific ordeal.
"I know nothing can begin to compensate them for their loss, but I hope today's sentence will at the very least give them a sense of justice for what has happened and their unnecessary loss."
Allie Longhorn, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Asher Maslin made a cold and calculated decision to kill Hollie Gazzard, a young woman who only weeks previously he had been in a relationship with.
"The Crown Prosecution Service worked closely with the police to build a strong prosecution case against Maslin.
"Ultimately, the strength of the evidence resulted in him pleading guilty to Hollie's murder and this at least spared many witnesses from having to re-live the horrific events in court.
"Domestic violence permeates all sections of our society and it is sad to see a young life ended in such a brutal way.
"Thousands of women and a considerable number of men in our country remain trapped in abusive relationships and this case tragically demonstrates just how dangerous such relationships can be.
"It takes incredible strength to come forward and speak out against someone you love, but victims can be assured that complaints will be taken seriously and they will be supported throughout the prosecution process.
"The CPS will work closely with the police and, where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest, will always prosecute.
"Nothing will compensate Hollie's family and friends for the loss they have suffered at the hands of Asher Maslin but I hope the conclusion of this case and the custodial sentence passed will bring at least a degree of comfort."