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York man jailed for life for 2007 murder

|News, Violent crime

David Roustoby (45) has today been sentenced to life at Leeds Crown Court and ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years for the murder of David Clarke thirteen years ago.

Sharon Houlden also known as Roustoby, (50) who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to assisting an offender, was sentenced to two years and eight months.

On 18 April 2007, a retired doctor reported to police that whilst walking his dog he had found a fully-clothed body floating face down in shallow water in the River Foss at Haxby, North Yorkshire. The man was identified as 43-year-old David Clarke, who lived four-and-a-half miles away in York.

Mr Clarke had an alcohol problem and suffered from depression. The pathologist at the time concluded that the circumstances were consistent with drowning and found that Mr Clarke had been heavily intoxicated. At the inquest, the coroner ruled that Mr Clarke had died by drowning, with alcohol intoxication a contributing factor.

In August 2019, David Roustoby was captured on CCTV at the home of two friends, confessing to David Clarke’s murder over 12 years previously. He admitted to plying Mr Clarke with alcohol and prescribed medication and strangling the victim with a tie, before enlisting his then-girlfriend Sharon Houlden to drive Mr Clarke’s body to Haxby where it was dumped in the river.

Roustoby later claimed in his defence that this was a fantasy confession, concocted to impress his friends.

However, in the recording he revealed details only known at the time to police.

The jury was also asked to consider the likelihood of a heavily intoxicated man walking four and a half miles from York to Haxby - a journey that would have taken over an hour on foot - before accidentally or deliberately drowning in the river.

Further, in 2019, the case at the time was far from being a notorious unsolved murder, but thought to be a tragic drowning incident which had taken place 12 years previously. Yet Roustoby named the victim, and claimed he had been murdered.

Other evidence put before the jury built up a further picture: messages recovered from the SIM card of Mr Clarke’s mobile confirmed that Roustoby was the last person to see the victim alive; his girlfriend Sharon Houlden had reported her car stolen to the police two days after the murder, and it was found burned out a short distance away; and lastly, some time before the murder, the defendant had reported to the police that Mr Clarke had threatened him with a gun.

On 15 October the jury took three hours to find David Roustoby guilty of the murder of David Clarke.

Claire Harris from the CPS said: "For 13 years David Roustoby believed he had literally got away with murder. When confronted with his CCTV confession, he claimed that he was trying to impress his friends; that it was all fantasy.

"This was a lie. After listening to the evidence at trial, the jury agreed with the case put before them by the CPS. David Clarke’s death was neither accident nor suicide. Roustoby had indeed plied Mr Clarke with alcohol and drugs, strangled him, and dumped his body in the Foss, exactly as he claimed in his confession.

"Justice has now been served and Roustoby is now serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 19 years. I hope this brings some comfort to Mr Clarke’s family."

Notes to editors

  • Claire Harris is a Senior Crown Prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside
  • David Roustoby, D.o.B.12/5/75
  • Sharon Houlden: D.o.B. 26/12/69.

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