A man has today been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 27 years for the murder of Susan Waring and a string of violent offences against four other victims.
Alan Edwards (pictured, right), 48, of Blackburn Road, Darwen was convicted of Susan’s murder last week following a trial at Preston Crown Court. He was also found guilty of 19 other offences against four other women he had been in relationships with, spanning twenty years.
Susan Waring’s body has never been found.
Susan (pictured below, right), a vulnerable 45-year-old woman, had been subjected to a number of assaults by Edwards during their two-month relationship and was seen being punched to the face by him on Tuesday 15th January 2019, around two weeks before her family last heard from her.
The following day (16th January 2019), she attended a doctor’s appointment with multiple injuries, including bruising and severe swelling to the face. Accompanied by Edwards, she was advised to seek medical attention at a hospital but sadly, she never did.
Susan was last seen on Tuesday 29th January 2019 in company with Edwards at Asda in Darwen.
Family raised concerns about Susan’s whereabouts and Edwards claimed she had left on Friday 1st February 2019, with some money and clothing, but had not been in contact since, despite his attempts to reach her. It was the prosecution case that this was a guise aimed at taking the focus away from himself so he could say that Susan departed of her own accord and was still alive.
Susan’s family reported her missing to the police.
Just over a week later, Edwards accidentally sent some images of Susan with visible physical injuries to a member of her family. When he was asked to show them to police looking for her a short time later, he was unable to produce them.
Susan’s disappearance was initially treated as a missing from home enquiry until officers could find no trace of Susan still being alive. In March and April that year, officers conducted extensive forensic searches of the Edwards’ flat on Blackburn Road, Darwen, where she had lived with him.
Here they found Susan’s blood throughout, including in the living room, on a glass panel on the front door, on furniture, the walls, stairs, in the bathroom, on a bathroom cabinet, some speakers, some glasses in a toolbox in the hallway, a rubber Halloween mask which was covered in numerous blood spots belonging to Susan on the outside. Edwards’ DNA was found on the inside of the mask, suggesting he had worn it at some point. It is believed that Edwards wore the mask whilst assaulting Susan.
Officers also discovered that Edwards had made some attempts to recently redecorate, with a wall adjacent to a staircase being painted over and some of the sitting room walls covered with wallpaper and paint. A forensic examination of these areas revealed Susan’s blood underneath the fresh paint.
It is believed that due to the blood distribution in the hallway and stair area, Susan had been attacked and some of her blood had been painted over.
When questioned by detectives, he denied ever assaulting Susan and tried to blame an ex-partner of hers.
Susan was not the only victim of Edwards’ extreme violence. He repeatedly assaulted four other ex-partners whilst in relationships with them. The prosecution presented evidence of systematic, horrific and sadistic abuse of his ex-partners which spanned several decades.
One victim was just 18 when she was punched and kicked by Edwards. He subjected her to numerous beatings to her head and body between 1990 to late 1991, pointed a gun at her head, tied her to a chair, kicked her legs – removing his shoes and replacing them with steel toe cap boots - resulting in them bruising and bleeding. On a later occasion he used a flick knife to pick at the scabbing he had caused, rubbed salt and vinegar into the woman’s wounds and set his pet ferret on her. The assaults continued even whilst she was pregnant, with him holding her head under water for a prolonged period on one occasion.
He committed other offences against another woman between 1998 to 2001 when she was in her mid to late twenties. The assaults included headbutting her several times, on occasion whilst she was holding a child, repeatedly grabbing or pulling her hair and many other attacks such as cutting her finger whilst she was pregnant. Edwards’ violent outbursts would take place around every two to three weeks, with the victim’s hair being yanked out in clumps, household ornaments being smashed and her regularly having black eyes and a sore nose.
In 2014, Edwards and the woman were in touch again. He attacked her when it became clear that she no longer wanted to be in a relationship with him.
From 2003 to the end of 2009, he subjected another victim – in her thirties - to extreme violence against another victim which included knocking her to the floor so hard that she fractured her jaw to the point where it needed wiring together, beat her with a belt, attacked her in the street, headbutted and struck her head against a wall, strangled her and threatened to kill her. In addition, he stopped her from wearing clothing that would reveal injuries to her legs and would not allow her access to her own money.
Another woman in her thirties was in a relationship with Edwards from late to 2009 and into 2010. In their short three to four-month relationship, Edwards strangled her, leaving marks on her neck. On at least three occasions she awoke to be made to sit up in bed whilst Edwards held a knife against her throat and threatened her, telling her that unless she stayed awake to speak to him, he would cut her skin.
On sentencing the judge thanked the police and Crown Prosecution Service for bringing the case to court.
Det Ch Insp Pauline Stables from Lancashire’s Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT), said: “Edwards is an extremely violent man who is clearly a danger to the women in his life. Prone to jealous outbursts, particularly when intoxicated through drink and/ or drugs, he has shown over a period of many years his propensity to lose his temper and violently attack people for no justifiable reason.
“My heart goes out to each and every one of Edwards’ victims. I can only imagine the horrors they have been subjected to at the hands of such a cruel and violent man.
“I am glad we have been able to get justice for Susan’s family in terms of putting her killer behind bars but their suffering continues whilst her body remains missing and they cannot lay her to rest. Edwards continues to deny Susan’s murder and as such, is not revealing where he disposed of her body.
“If anyone thinks they know anything about where Susan may be, please contact us with any information, no matter how insignificant you think it may be.”
DCI Stables continued: “I must commend and pay tribute to all of Edwards’ other victims for coming forward and sharing their traumatic experiences with us. They have shown real courage, particularly considering that some of them are still frightened of him to this day, such is the fear he has instilled into them.
“I would like to reassure anyone who is in an abusive or coercive relationship – be that mental, physical, financial or sexual - that there is help out there and you can get out the terrible situation that you are in to the safety you need and deserve. We as the police can take reports or you can seek the help of many groups and charities out there who can offer you support.
“Finally, I would like to thank the dedicated team of detectives and wider staff of Lancashire Constabulary - from search teams to forensic scientists - for their tireless search for Susan and for the professional and meticulous investigation which has resulted in this successful prosecution.”
Advice and where to go for help can be found on our website in the help & advice section, by clicking on ‘personal safety’ and then ‘domestic abuse’.
Pictures of Alan Edwards and Susan Waring.
Susan is also pictured with her family (from left to right) - Lynne Waring (sister), Linda Waring (mum), Peter Waring (brother), Karen O’Reilly (sister), Susan Waring and Patrick O’Reilly (Karen’s husband)
Also attached are photographs of a mat from 33a Blackburn Road with Susan’s blood on and photographs of the skull/Halloween mask.