BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Edward Tenniswood '˜needlessly added to the torment of India Chipchase's family'

As a crime reporter, I've experienced numerous murder trials and seen dozens of violent, unrepentant criminals attempt to fool a jury into finding them not guilty.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 3rd August 2016, 8:19 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:09 pm

But Edward Tenniswood is undoubtedly the most shameless, delusional and cruel defendant I have ever reported on.

The unemployed 52-year-old turned up every day at his two-week trial wearing a smart suit and shirt and appeared to be taking studious notes of the evidence.

Despite his apparent confident appearance, it was significant he avoided eye contact with anyone in the public gallery or the press area.

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Before the jury came in to court on the second day of the trial, Tenniswood’s barrister, Samuel Stein, informed the judge his client had complained to him about his treatment in prison.

Fellow inmates had read the details of the crimes Tenniswood was at that stage alleged to have committed and they had threatened to “get him” in the showers.

Through his barrister, Tenniswood, who had moaned that he “hadn’t been able to sleep”, was duly granted extra protection in custody by Judge John Saunders who, quite rightly, did not want any outside circumstances to affect the smooth running of the trial.

To me, this was the first glimpse into the self-obsessed character of the former bookkeeper, who never showed any interest or care for the feelings of anyone but himself.

However, it was when Tenniswood gave evidence that his breathtaking lack of empathy really shone through.

As a defendant who had never given an account of what happened to Miss Chipchase on the night she died - twice giving ‘no comment’ interviews to police - this was his chance to give a contrite, honest and dignified explanation of why he believed he was innocent.

But from the beginning of his evidence, it was clear Tenniswood was a narcissistic fantasist who was not interested in offering a shred of remorse for his actions.

Speaking in long, convoluted sentences, he seemed to enjoy going into minute detail about utterly mundane parts of his lifestyle such as what sort of wine he drank and where he bought it from.

Without a flicker of emotion, he tried to convince the jury that he had immediately “bonded” with Miss Chipchase, a woman more than 30 years his junior, despite the fact numerous witnesses had described her as “very drunk”.

For someone who obviously believes he is quite intelligent, Tenniswood’s blatant attempt to lie and bluster his way through his evidence was not even that sophisticated.

When shown the CCTV footage of his first meeting with Miss Chipchase, Tenniswood ridiculously tried to deny the clear video evidence he had put his arm around her and put forward the unbelievable suggestion she had spoken to him first.

When asked by barrister Christpher Donnellan QC to provide basic details of their conversation - what they talked about and if he even knew her name, Tenniswood became ludicrously angry and defensive and accused the prosecutor of making “outrageous suggestions”.

Another infuriating tactic frequently used by Tenniswood, who nervously gulped from glasses of water throughout his testimony, was to refuse to answer ‘yes/no’ questions directly and, instead, go off on a tangent on another topic.

Judge Saunders repeatedly had to tell him to “just answer the question”.

At one stage, when he appeared to have tripped up and given a contradictory account he sat like a frightened schoolboy, with his hands covering his face because he said “he wanted to get his story straight.”

Perhaps the worst aspect of his evidence was his casual use of the phrase “that was such a India thing to do” which provoked an audible gasp from Miss Chipchase’s aunt and uncle who were sitting in the public gallery.

Despite, on his own account, only having spoke to Miss Chipchase for less than two hours, the short, balding, middle-aged man attempted to convince the jury she had kissed him first.

In fact, the man who admitted having a wall full of magazine cuttings of famous women who he claimed looked like ex-girlfriends seemed keen to paint himself as some sort of lothario.

He made the refuted claim he had dated fashion model Heather Stewart-Whyte as well as “many attractive women”.

Without a trace of self-awareness, Tenniswood described himself as a “gentleman” and “not a creepy man” who always had India’s best interests at heart.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I can completely understand why India’s parents stayed away from the trial as, even though I am used to hearing horrific details in court cases, it was hard to listen to Tenniswood’s delusional ramblings and not feel angry and intensely sad that such a popular, kind and loving young woman’s life ended in his squalid house.

On a number of occasions, Tenniswood used the phrase “No disrespect to India but...” and I felt like shouting “everything you have done since you met her has been completely and utterly disrespectful to her”.

By failing to admit to his crimes of ‘utter depravity’ Tenniswood needlessly and deliberately added to the torment of India’s grieving family and friends.

He also ensured that intimate details of Miss Chipchase were heard publicly in court and, due to his insistence, a video was played to the jury of the moment her body was found in his house.

But, after the jury’s unanimous verdicts, Tenniswood is now likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars and, in all likelihood, will find few people in prison sympathetic to his predicament.

Hopefully, he will use some of the time to try to understand how much pain and upset he has caused to all of the people who knew and loved India as well as everyone in Northampton who has been left appalled by his crimes.