A mechanic who behaved like the ‘Incredible Hulk’ after taking a turbo-charged LSD nicknamed the ‘N-Bomb’ was jailed for life today after beating his wife and a pensioner to death with a walking stick while believing he was God and wearing only his pants.
Daniel Appleton, 38, was convicted of murdering Amy Appleton, 32, and passer-by Sandra Seagrave, 76, on the driveway outside his home in Crawley Down, West Sussex and was sentenced to a minimum of 26 years at Lewes Crown Court.
Appleton had denied murder and taking LSD, claiming he had suffered a psychotic episode – but the jury agreed he was lying after traces of N-Bomb, a highly potent and toxic synthetic version of LSD, were found on his hair and nails.
Sentencing Appleton to life in prison, Mr Justice Nicholas Hilliard QC told him that this was ‘not a case of insanity’. He added: ‘I sentence you on the basis that you took a new psychoactive substance and under the influence of this committed these murders’.
On December 22 2019 Appleton was seen dragging his wife Amy, who he married a year earlier, out of their home while screaming: ‘I could murder you’. Witnesses said he looked ‘like the Incredible Hulk’ as he attacked his spouse wearing only his underwear and ranting about being God.
He then bludgeoned Ms Seagrave to death with her own walking stick after she confronted him, before turning on his terrified wife and killing her with the same metal pole just days before Christmas.
Appleton then threw the crutch down before lifting his arms and shouting at the house saying: ‘You all think I’m a f***ing nutcase, you all think I’m crazy, well I am going to show you, this is what I am.’ One neighbour said it sounded like a ‘victory speech’.
Daniel Appleton has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 26-and-a-half years for the murders of his wife and a pensioner days before Christmas 2019
Daniel Appleton, 38, had admitted killing but denied the murder in February. Pictured with his wife Amy Appleton on their wedding day in 2018. The court heard they were happily married
The loss of beloved schoolteacher Amy Appleton, 32, and brave passer-by Sandra Seagrave, 76, who rushed to her aid, shocked the small village of Crawley Down, West Sussex
Last December a jury at Lewes Crown Court in Hove convicted Appleton of murder after deciding he was in the grip of a psychotic episode after taking LSD, a hallucinogenic drug
His 365 days spent on remand will be deducted from the minimum term of 26 years, the court was told
The incident took place outside the couple’s £370,000 suburban home in Crawley, West Sussex
What turned suburban Mr Sensible into a murderous Incredible Hulk?
Appleton denied murder, claiming he had suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown, which triggered a psychotic episode.
But the prosecution insisted that he was high on drugs.
After tests for commonly abused narcotics came back negative, hair and nail samples were sent to a laboratory in France. Traces of a substance called 25i-NBOMe were found.
Known as N-Bomb, the drug is a highly potent synthetic version of LSD, so toxic that it requires a filter mask, gloves and glasses to even handle it.
It can cause hallucinations, unpredictable distortions of the senses and feelings of paranoia – and has been linked to a number of deaths.
Appleton denied taking any drugs, saying he had only done so on a stag do years before.
When he came round after two weeks in intensive care, police were hoping he would at least be able to offer some explanation for his appalling actions.
A happily married ‘Mr Sensible’, he ran a successful garage business with his best man.
On the night prior to the incident he had been out in London with friends but stuck to soft drinks.
Even for members of the emergency services, the scene confronting them as they arrived at the Appletons’ house a year ago was almost impossible to process.
As Sgt Christopher Brakell observed what struck him on entering their clean and tidy semi-detached house on the day of the killings was how outwardly ‘normal’ everything appeared.
He then went back into his house and tried to kill himself, stabbing himself at least five times in the chest with a large kitchen knife, cutting his neck and slashing his thighs in an attempt to cut the femoral arteries. But he was saved my paramedics.
After waking from a coma two weeks later Appleton admitted killing the two women but denied murder or consuming mind-altering drugs. He claimed instead he had suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown.
But traces of the drug were found in samples of his hair and nails with police believing he took it on a night out with his friends before the murders.
It appears he took a type of synthetic LSD called 25i-NBOMe. It can cause hallucinations, unpredictable distortions of the senses and feelings of paranoia – and has been linked to a number of deaths.
Known as N-Bomb, the drug is so toxic that it requires a filter mask, gloves and safety glasses to even handle it.
Following a seven-week trial, a jury at Lewes Crown Court in Hove convicted Appleton of murder last December after deciding he was in the grip of a psychotic episode after taking LSD, a powerful hallucinogenic drug.
A happily married ‘Mr Sensible’, Appleton ran a successful garage business and had no criminal record, nor a history of mental illness or substance abuse, before turning into the ‘Incredible Hulk’ on December 22, 2019.
Lewes Crown Court today heard the murders had ‘devastated’ the families of Ms Appleton and Ms Seagrave and had caused huge grief.
Appleton bowed his head in the dock and wept as his wife’s mother Linda Remon described the ‘uncontrollable distress and despair’ her family have experienced.
In a statement read out in court, she said: ‘One moment we were looking forward to a special Christmas and new year and the next our world came crashing down around us.
‘Our lives were turned catastrophically upside down in the most dreadful way possible. Not only has this devastated family and friends but the lives of 30 children she was teaching at the time.
‘Our initial response was one of total disbelief turning into uncontrollable distress and despair when reality set in.
‘You can never imagine your whole life will change in such a way in a matter of seconds. One moment we were all looking forward to a special Christmas and New Year, the next our world came crashing down.’
Sentencing Appleton, Mr Justice Nicholas Hilliard QC told him that this was ‘not a case of insanity’. He added: ‘I sentence you on the basis that you took a new psychoactive substance and under the influence of this committed these murders.
‘Anyone who takes new psychoactive substances, which are Class A drugs, is interfering with their own mental processes and responsible for the consequences.’
Appleton admitted killing both women but denied murder claiming it was the result of a psychotic episode.
He told the court he loved his wife ‘more than she will ever know’ and she loved him and the couple, who had recently returned from honeymoon, were planning on starting a family. He claimed he had no memory of horrific killings.
However the jury of seven men and five women rejected his claims and found him guilty of both murders.
Three psychiatric assessments considered Appleton to have experienced a brief psychotic episode with hypomanic symptoms at the time of the killings. Samples of his hair and nail clippings later revealed minute traces of a psychoactive substance similar to LSD.
An eyewitness said Appleton enjoyed what he had done, waving the crutch above his head as he stood over her lifeless body before shouting a victory speech to his neighbours.
He turned the same metal stick on his wife and bludgeoned her to death before trying to kill himself.
Appleton (pictured after his arrest) has admitted killing the two women but denied murder
Members of the public rushed to the aid of the two women but despite their best efforts, and those of emergency services attending the scene, both were pronounced dead.
Appleton told a jury his memory of the savage killings was like a videotape on fast forward.
Police found him naked in a pool of his own blood in the family kitchen.
The jury at Hove Trial Centre took two days to reach unanimous guilty verdicts on both murders.
Appleton blamed anxiety over starting a family and stress at work for the tragic events outside his home at Crawley Down near Gatwick just before Christmas last year.
Police investigating the matter spoke to a number of Mr Appleton’s friends and family who said he had been acting strangely in the period leading up to the incident.
Witnesses at the scene described Mr Appleton’s behaviour as agitated, angry and like he was possessed.
‘You all think I’m crazy – well I am going to show you, this is what I am!’
Witnesses described to the jury the moments surrounding the horrific murders.
Neighbour, Ivonne Greenwell, was in her bedroom at around 10.15am on Saturday December 22 when she heard shouting.
She could hear the defendant shouting: ‘I’ve had f***ing enough of this!
‘I’m f***ing done with this!’
Ms Greenwell decided to dial 999 when she heard Appleton shout: ‘I could murder you!’
Neighbour Susan Kipps said she saw Appleton pacing the driveway naked, at around 1030am.
She told police: ‘I realised it was Daniel.
‘He seemed very agitated and angry.
‘He was sort of puffed up and behaving totally differently. His eyes weren’t right.
‘It was as though he had turned into the Incredible Hulk.
‘He looked like he was on another planet, like he had lost the plot.
‘He looked big, bold and scary.’
Janet Spragg was out running with her dog when she saw Appleton beat Ms Seagrave with her walking stick.
He grabbed the walking stick and jabbed the pensioner very forcefully into the very centre of her stomach with it, she said.
Ms Spragg said: ‘He knew I was there but it was almost like there was not a lot going on facially with him, his face was set.
‘There was something almost possessed.
‘I think he enjoyed it because he did it with such force and, it wasn’t even anger, it wasn’t a release but the way he did it you could see it made him feel good,’ she said.
Appleton threw the crutch down before lifting his arms and shouting at the house saying: ‘You all think I’m a f***ing nutcase, you all think I’m crazy, well I am going to show you, this is what I am.’
After brutally beating his wife to death, Appleton told neighbours who gathered outside his house: ‘I know I’ve killed my wife and I know I am going to prison.’
A forensic pharmacologist said Appleton’s behaviour was likely to be as a result of (251) NBOMe – a highly potent synthetic version of LSD.
The jury determined that drug use was a factor in causing the psychotic episode which led to the deaths of the two victims.
Appleton, who had admitted taking drugs on a trip to Amsterdam in his 20s, told the jury his mental health started to collapse in the days leading up to his brutal assaults.
Phone records showed Appleton searched for information about magic mushrooms 11 days before the killings and traces of powerful synthetic hallucinogens were found in samples taken from him during his treatment and while he waited for trial in prison.
Nicholas Corsellis QC for the Crown asked him: ‘Do you see the overall picture? The fact is there was drugs in your blood and you were searching on December 11 and you had taken them before?
‘It’s therefore a coincidence because you say your psychotic episode was brought on by stress at work.
‘You say you are a self-absorbed person who overthinks things and this led you to commit such horrific, violent acts?’
Appleton said: ‘Yes.’
During the second day of his evidence, Appleton offered an emotional apology to the families of the women he killed from the witness box.
Asked by his counsel, Lewis Power QC, how he felt about the deaths he said: ‘I’m, I’m devastated. Absolutely devastated by what has happened.
‘I don’ know where, if they are here, or where they are, but I just want Amy’s family to know that I’m devastated by what has happened and that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
‘Amy was very special to us all. She was loving and caring and she was just always so happy.
‘Devastated for the loss of Mrs Seagrave and I can’t bring myself to imagine the trauma that they have gone through and I’m so very sorry.
‘I know sorry’s not good enough but I haven’t got words for any of this. It’s so very tragic.’
A jury at Lewes Crown Court in Hove heard Appleton describe how he felt a deep attachment to his friends on a night out before he killed his wife and Mrs Seagrave.
He told the court he believed his friends were his guardian angels on the trip to London.
Appleton said he remembered his wife making a hysterical phone call to his parents as he lay silent and motionless on their sofa the night before he killed her.
The following morning he brought her a cup of tea in bed before his mood changed.
‘I seem to remember being in the bedroom,’ Appleton said. Amy was in bed and I said to her, ‘tell me you love me and you wanna have kids with me’ and I said that loud.’
He told his wife she had to go out into the street and tell the world she wanted to have his children.
Appleton said he believed he was being watched as he stood at his bedroom window. The couple went downstairs and Amy went outside, he said.
‘I seem to remember going downstairs and her sort of slipping on her slippers. I was following her down the stairs.
‘I believe she went to the front door and opened the door and going outside and shouting I love Daniel and I want to have kids with him.
Teacher Amy Appleton pictured at her graduation in 2010 with her husband Daniel Appleton
‘A true character’: Sandy Seagrave’s family pay tribute after her killer is convicted
A statement released by Sandy’s family following the verdict said: ‘Sandy was a lady of old-fashioned values who was a true character.
‘She could be intensely private but would happily talk to anyone, and she would not turn away from a situation.
‘She was very well known around Crawley Down walking her dog around the village.
‘Even if people didn’t know her name they still knew her by sight. She had many friends among her lovely neighbours who were always willing to lend her a helping hand if it was needed.
‘We, her family, miss her so much and find it so hard to understand how this tragic event occurred.
‘It has left a hole in our lives as big as her personality, as I am sure it has the community of Crawley Down.
‘It may be a year since she was killed but the memory and pain we all felt then is still just as fresh today.
‘Her tragic death is something that is almost impossible to come to terms with.’
‘I think I remember her shouting that. I shut the door and Amy tried to get back in.
‘We were just to-ing and fro-wing at the front door and she said ‘Why won’t you let me in?’
‘I remember her saying that. We were just pushing the door to and from each other.
‘I remember going outside.
‘I remember seeing Amy on the floor and thinking she was hurt.
‘I don’t remember going over to her. I just remember being outside and the car and Amy was there.
‘I just remember being outside and I seem to remember people but I can’t remember where.’
Appleton said he has no memory of Mrs Seagrave or her stick.
Following his merciless attack, Appleton tried to take his own life. He jumped out of the loft at before throwing himself down the stairs.
He used a large kitchen knife to stab himself five times in the chest, slashing both of his upper thighs attempting to cut arteries and cut his neck, head, calf muscle and forearm in what was described by the prosecution as the most determined suicide attempt.
During his arrest, Appleton continued ranting saying: ‘I wanna f*** you so hard, you better get my wife here,
‘I know I’ve only got a small willy.
‘Amy get my car. Got to start my car. Make me hard, I wanna get out and f*** my wife.
‘Fire up the Quattro!’
Appleton and his wife met when Ms she was 10 – she was best friends with Appleton’s younger sister Kirsty – and they started dating when she was 16.
Having graduated from Brighton university, Ms Appleton studied to become a teacher and, in 2011, joined Copthorne Junior School in Crawley.
In 2008, Appleton, a skilled mechanic, launched a car repair business, AD Autotecnik, with his best friend Simon Davidson. The garage was doing well and making money.
‘Never a day goes by that we don’t miss and think of our beautiful, kind, caring daughter’
Amy’s family described her as a ‘strong, positive person who always smiled’.
In a statement issued after the verdict, they said: ‘ It has now been a year since we lost our wonderful Amy.
‘Never a day goes by that we don’t miss and think of our beautiful, kind, caring daughter, sister and step-sister.
‘As time goes by it seems to get harder to understand how we lost her in such tragic circumstances and our family will struggle to move on.
‘Amy will live on in our minds and in our hearts, and will always be missed by the many people, colleagues and school children that she knew and who loved her.
‘We would like to take this opportunity to thank the police investigation team for their perseverance and hard work, together with Nicholas Corsellis and Kerry Broome, to get the justice that our Amy deserved.’
In 2017, the couple bought a smart semi-detached home in Crawley Down for £370,000 and the following year married at a country house south of London.
Sandra Seagrave, 76, maintained an active lifestyle despite needing a stick after injuring her leg in 2018.
She was well known in the community and was often seen walking her dog.
Amy was found lying on the driveway. Mrs Seagrave was left lying in the street.
Appleton’s father Gary said he was concerned about the behaviour of his son in the days leading up to the deaths, the court heard.
In a conversation with his mother, Marilyn Appleton, on December 22, Appleton said something amazing had happened.
He told his mother: ‘I feel like I’m going to live forever. I feel like Jesus. I feel like God.’
Speaking after the verdict, Det Ch Insp Chris Friday of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, said: ‘This was a violent and unprovoked attack which claimed the lives of two well-loved women, and our thoughts at this time are with the families of both Amy Appleton and Sandy Seagrave.
‘This has been a highly emotive and difficult case, but they have conducted themselves with bravery and dignity throughout.
‘Mr Appleton turned on his wife that morning with no warning or cause, and attacked her on the driveway of their home. When Sandy confronted Mr Appleton in a bid to get him to stop, she too became a victim.
‘I would like to thank everyone who supported the police investigation, including the witnesses who showed incredible bravery to help Amy and Sandy at the scene before emergency services arrived.
‘Also to all the paramedics and police officers who attended and managed what was an extremely distressing scene.’