Dying dad clung to girlfriend and told her ‘I love you’ after she stabbed him in heart

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Tonia Crabtree, 29, killed Craig Morse, 33, with a 9cm long knife during a struggle at her flat in Langley Mill, Derbyshire, telling him “I am sorry” before he collapsed and died

A dying man held on to his girlfriend and told her “I love you” after she stabbed him in the heart with a 9cm long kitchen knife, a court heard.

Tonia Crabtree, 29, killed Craig Morse, 33, during a violent and drunken row at her flat in Langley Mill, Derbyshire.

The dad-of-four punched Crabtree, 29, and was attempting to disarm her when almost the entire length of the blade went into his chest, piercing his heart, just before 2am on April 3.

Mr Morse held on to her, told her that he loved her and collapsed to the floor. She told him “I am sorry, I love you”, the court heard.

Crabtree was jailed for four years and nine months after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of her partner, DerbyshireLive reports.

Derby Crown Court heard on Wednesday that the pair, both originally from Stoke-on-Trent, had a “toxic relationship” and were abusive towards each other.

Defence barrister Clive Stockwell QC, mitigating, told the court that Mr Morse had tried to stop Crabtree from cutting herself but in the heat of the moment she thrust the knife into his chest.

He said Crabtree had moved to Derbyshire to get away from Mr Morse but their relationship rekindled.

Adrian Langdale QC, prosecuting, said Crabtree and Mr Morse had been drinking heavily and arguing before the fatal stabbing, which occurred during the coronavirus lockdown.

She suffered a black eye and she slapped and punched Mr Morse, the court heard.

Crabtree, who has a history of self-harming, removed a blade from a knife block in the kitchen, leading to a struggle.

Mr Langdale said: “Craig Morse was stabbed to the left side of the chest in a front-to-back direction.

“The knife went into the chest and the main right heart ventricle.

“It was 9cm long and that is almost the entire length of the blade.”

Mr Morse staggered out of the kitchen and into the main bedroom, where Crabtree’s brother Daniel and his partner were sleeping.

The court heard Daniel Crabtree told police: “Craig was screaming and came into the bedroom saying ‘she’s stabbed me, she’s stabbed me, I should not have done it’, meaning hit her.

“He struggled back, raised his arms and pulled her in as if to cuddle her.

“He told her he loved her, his body went limp and he collapsed in the hallway.”

Mr Morse died at the scene despite efforts to save him.

It was estimated that Crabtree was more than three times the legal drink-drive limit at the time of the incident, the court heard.

Mr Stockwell, mitigating, said: “At no point did Tonia Crabtree intend to cause any injury to Craig Morse.

“She was not looking to hurt him, she was not looking to cause him any physical injury because she loved him and he loved her.

“She held him while he was suffering. ‘I am sorry, I am sorry, I love you’ were her first words.

“She jabbed out that night to ward off Craig Morse to prevent him from stopping her from achieving what she wanted to achieve and that is cutting herself which, over the years, has given her temporary release.

“This was in the heat of the moment and was one motion and regretted immediately.”

A statement from Mr Morse’s dad Dillwyn said: “I feel like my heart and very soul has been ripped out and this violent act has killed us all in a way.

“Tonia, you broke God’s first commandment and you will have to face him one day.

“God shall forgive you, but I never will.”

In her statement, Danielle Collins, the mother to three of Mr Morse’s children, said classmates at one son’s school cruelly taunted him that he has no father.

Sentencing Crabtree, Judge Nirmal Shant QC, Honorary Recorder of Derby, said: “Mr Morse’s death has unsurprisingly had a huge impact on the lives of those who loved him.

“Nothing I can do to you today will diminish the grief they have suffered and will continue to suffer.

“Sadly, even in his dying moments it is clear you loved him and he loved you.

“But it was a toxic relationship.”

Crabtree was originally charged with murder. She pleaded not guilty, and the charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence.