‘I found my mum brutally murdered in her own home – then had to trap her killer’

A man found his mother murdered in her own home and her killer was still in the house – and then managed to trap the culprit until the police arrived. Dave Bradley went to check on his mother, Karen Wheeler, after becoming concerned as he hadn’t heard from her in a while.

But when he arrived at her house he stumbled across a horrific scene, finding Karen’s husband, Mark Wheeler, covered in blood in the bathroom and her mutilated body in the living room. Dave then managed to keep the killer trapped in the house until police arrived, and now he’s been jailed for life.

Dave, 38, from Birkenhead, Merseyside, says: “When I found my mother’s body, I wanted to kill him. But I could hear her voice, urging me not to throw my own life away. It was her, pulling me back.

“Instead, I trapped him in the bathroom and waited for the emergency services. I was terrified, but there was no way I was leaving him alone with my mother’s body.

“I miss her so much and I relive the day of her murder over and over again. No punishment will ever bring her back.”

Karen and her husband had appeared happily married and she worked hard as a carer, saving to pay for a forthcoming holiday to Orlando for the pair.

But Wheeler had a secret life, had cut his hours at work, and was £15k in debt. With bailiffs due to call at the home, he bludgeoned and stabbed his wife to death as she slept on the sofa following a night shift.

Dave says: “The police couldn’t find out how he had spent the money. But in her flat, after her death, I found women’s underwear and other items which didn’t belong to my mother and it’s my view that he was paying for other services.

“I also came across his books on law and crime and murder.”

As a child, Dave was taken into care with his older brother, Ben, now deceased, after their mother suffered severe post-natal depression and mental health problems.

Dave says: “I missed her so much whilst I was in care and at 15, I went back to live with her. She was always so apologetic, she tore herself apart with guilt, and she vowed to be the best mother she could, going forwards.

“It was tricky at first whilst we adjusted to being a family again but we grew really close and we had an incredible bond. mum was a hard worker, she lived very frugally, and she enjoyed the simple things.”

In 2008, Karen met Wheeler whilst working as a cleaner at TK Max. They began dating and were married in 2015.

Dave says: “Mark seemed nice enough though he was off-beat; he had a weird sense of humour and he would say odd stuff. But my mum loved him and so I accepted him.

“He was really into rock music, he loved ACDC and collected all the T-shirts.”

But in the last couple of years, Dave became concerned about Mark’s behaviour.

He says: “Mum was working as a carer, she did long hours, and she paid for them to go to Orlando on holiday every two years.

“Mark started moaning about her working too much. He called her a lot, checking up on her. He was becoming very needy and possessive which was worrying.

“But there was no sign at all of what was to come. There was no violence, no indication that he had a temper at all.”

Dave lived just a five-minute walk away from his mother and in May this year had arranged to visit.

He says: “I could see mum’s flat from mine. She messaged me every single day and I saw her a couple of times a week. She’d cook a steak for me and one for Scrappy, my Jack Russell too. She had such a soft heart.

“I’d arranged to go round on May 11, three days before my birthday. That morning, mum texted to say she’d just come off a night shift and was looking forward to seeing me after a sleep.”

But when Dave arrived at the flat, at 3.15pm, there was no reply.

He says: “I thought she was probably still asleep and I went home. But by nighttime, I was a bit concerned. It wasn’t like her. I called her and I tried Mark as well, but there was no reply.”

By the next morning, Dave was becoming increasingly worried. He went to the flat again, again with no response.

He says: “I tried the concierge, I called my mum’s work, I even called the police. They said they couldn’t really help. I went back to the flat and this time, Mark buzzed me in.

“In the lift, on the way up, I got the strongest instinct that something had happened to my mum and that Mark was responsible.

“I walked in, the front door was open, and I saw Mark covered in blood. I ran straight past him and found mum on the living room floor, face down. I knew she was dead.

“I ran back to Mark and asked him why he had killed her. He replied: ‘Debt. Bailiffs are coming tomorrow.’

“I wanted to kill him, I wanted to take his life there and then. But I felt mum telling me that he had taken her life and not to let him take mine, telling me to ring the police instead.

“I trapped him in the bathroom, and I was frightened of what he might do if he got out. But there was no way I was leaving him in the flat with my mum.

“It took 22 minutes for the police to come and I had to keep him trapped that whole time, knowing he had murdered my mother.”

In the aftermath of the killing, Dave had to plan his mother’s funeral and also clear out her home.

He says: “The police couldn’t find out what Mark had been spending the money on. But I found women’s underwear hidden in the flat, not belonging to my mum, and I found books relating to crime and punishment and murder.

“It’s my belief that Mark had a grubby secret which had got him in debt and rather than confess to my mum, he murdered her.”

Last week Liverpool Crown Court heard that Karen Wheeler was murdered as she dozed on the sofa in her home after a night shift. She suffered at least 25 blows to the head after she was struck with a heavy salt lamp with a wooden base.

She was knocked unconscious but came around again at one stage and “asked what he was doing”.

Wheeler told her he “had to” kill her and was going to take his own life and began hitting her again with the lamp.

Wheeler then began stabbing her around her body “to make sure she was dead” before drinking whisky and attempting to take an overdose of tablets.

His suicide bid was unsuccessful and the following morning, he left the address in order to buy beer.

A post-mortem investigation revealed that Karen had suffered fractures to the skull and facial bones, bleeding on the brain, stab wounds to the head, chest and shoulder and “defensive” injuries to her hands and arms.

Stanley Reiz KC, defending, told the court that doctors concluded his client – who has no previous convictions – had been suffering an “acute stress reaction” after receiving a phone call telling him bailiffs would be visiting at 5pm that day.

Wheeler, described as a law-abiding man, admitted murder during an earlier hearing in August. He was last week jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years and 10 months and told to pay a victim surcharge.

Sentencing, Judge Denis Watson KC said: “It is self-evident that no sentence that I can pass can restore her life. She was a loving wife to you and a much-loved mother.”