Ex-prisoner, 43, is guilty of murdering his Virgin Atlantic stewardess lover, 49, by stabbing the mother-of-two in the eye with cutlery knife during blazing row over their sweet and sour dinner
An ex-prisoner has been jailed for life after murdering his Virgin Atlantic stewardess lover by stabbing her in the eye during a blazing row over dinner.
Alcoholic and drug addict Lee Kendall, 43, killed mother-of-two Michaela Hall, 49, at her home in Mount Hawke near Truro on May 31 last year after an argument over sweet and sour dinner.
The former Virgin Airways senior air stewardess had met Kendall when she worked for a charity which helps prisoners when they are freed from custody.
But Truro Crown Court heard she broke professional boundaries as his support worker and began an intimate sexual relationship before he moved into her home.
During the course of the relationship Kendall routinely beat her but only two of the assaults resulted in convictions. She remained devoted to him and determined to help him get his life on track.
The trial were given details of the violent relationship, with Michaela suffering black eyes. On May 14, 2021 he was given a three-year community order by a judge and was released from custody and returned to live with Michaela.
But just 17 days later he stabbed her to death, as the knife penetrated up to 9cm into her brain through her right eye, the jury was told.
Kendall was jailed for life today and told he must service a minimum of 21 years before he can be considered for parole.
Lee Kendall (left) was found guilty of killing 48-year-old Michaela Hall (right) at their home in Truro
A post mortem also revealed she had other facial and neck wounds which were consistent with manual strangulation – and Kendall’s DNA was found on her neck.
Kendall told the court during the trial, he and Michaela had been arguing over the sweet and sour food that she had prepared for both of them and she got upset with him when he told her he didn’t want to eat it.
He told the jury: ‘I wasn’t ready to eat it yet and I said I’d put it in the microwave.
‘She wanted me to eat with her. I put it on the floor.’
Kendal had alleged that they argued and he he overheard her ‘slagging me off’ on the phone to someone.
He admitted grabbing her around the throat, but claimed she had picked up a knife he had been using as a screwdriver for DIY which he alleged he pushed towards his chest.
Kendall then claimed that he took the knife as they were struggling his hand was ‘jerked away from her at the same time she is coming towards me and it ended up going in her eye.’
He also claimed he did not call emergency services because he put her to bed and thought ‘she’d be fine’.
After the verdict was read out Michaela’s family told the court the devastating impact her death has had on their lives.
They included her two school age sons, who both had statements read out in court on their behalf, as well as her mother and sister.
Judge Garnham told Kendall today: ‘You heard your partner talking on the phone. You heard what Michaela was saying and you formed and opinion, to use your expression, that she was ‘slagging you off’. You could not tolerate that.
‘Despite the fact Michaela had shown you every kindness over the previous two years, and had put up with your idleness, your sponging off her, you ill temper and your violence, you were not prepared to let her say a word against you.
‘So you picked up a kitchen knife with a sharp blade and went through to the bedroom. I find it a fact that there was no struggle. She did not arm herself with a cutlery knife.
‘Instead you grabbed her round the throat with one hand and with the other thrust the knife into her right eye.’
The former Virgin Airways senior air stewardess had met Kendall when she worked for a charity which helps prisoners when they are freed from custody
During the trial, prosecutor Miss Martin chronologically went through a number of incidents where Kendall was violent towards Ms Hall.
She said: ‘On May 20, 2019, Michaela Hall called 999. She said Lee Kendall had thrown a heavy purse at her face and damaged her car. She explained that Lee Kendall was having drug and alcohol induced psychosis. Police arrived and she was apologetic towards him for calling the police, saying it was for his own good. He was arrested and denied assaulting Michaela Hall and Michaela Hall declined to make a statement.
‘Police and the prosecution decided not to charge Lee Kendall but Michaela Hall was brought into contact with various organisations.
Social services became involved to ensure her children were safe and Lee Kendall was recalled to prison because of a breach of the terms of his licence.
‘He was in prison for over a year until July 11, 2020, when Michaela Hall collected him and they returned to Charlotte Close. It didn’t take long for the violence to start up again.’
Miss Martin told of how on August 24 and September 16, 2020, referrals were made when Ms Hall was spotted with black eyes.
She said in response that one injury was when she hit her eye on a bedpost and the other when she attacked him and he had no option but to retaliate.
Miss Martin said: ‘Six days later there was an anonymous call about a disturbance. Police found broken crockery and Michaela again had a swollen eye. Lee Kendall said he didn’t know how she got the black eye and that he wouldn’t hurt Michaela.
‘Three weeks later she was seen with more bruising and redness. It was at this point Michaela Hall recognised she was in danger. Lee Kendall was arrested but again denied doing anything. Michaela Hall declined to engage with the police.
‘A domestic violence protection notice was issued preventing Lee Kendall from going to the address but it didn’t make any difference. Michaela Hall would allow him back and the cycle would continue.’
Miss Martin added that in November and December 2020 police were called over claims Kendall had assaulted Ms Hall, but he denied everything and she refused to engage so there was little friends and family could do.
On February 12, 2021, Ms Hall turned up at a friend’s house bleeding and swollen. She told police Kendall had barricaded himself in a bedroom but when she went to get him he kicked her in the head and strangled her.
Miss Martin said: ‘She returned home and became angry with the police saying they were only making matter worse and she was the only one who could handle Lee Kendall.’
Kendall was bailed to an address in Plymouth and in March 2021 Ms Hall went to visit him. Kendall’s landlord contacted the police the following day and reported an assault.
Ms Hall gave a statement saying he’d pulled her hair and punched her six or seven times. Despite Ms Hall trying to withdraw her statement, the case proceeded and Kendall was given a community order.
However, he again went to live with Ms Hall in Mount Hawke.
Ms Hall’s body was found by her father on June 1, 2021, it likely she was killed 24 hours earlier.
On May 31 at just before 6:30pm Ms Hall had spoken on the phone to Kendall’s mother, during the call Kendall’s mother heard screaming.
A neighbour had gone out to get some shopping and when he returned at 9:30pm, he could hear shouting and banging and Ms Hall say ‘no, Lee’ before everything went silent.
At just gone 10pm Ms Hall tried to call a friend but didn’t get an answer. The friend sent a message back asking if Ms Hall was okay but never got a response and the message remained unread.
Ms Hall had also called another friend who had moved to Gran Canaria.
She said Kendall ‘was on one’. The friend, Clare Basnett, heard a scream and Ms Hall warning Kendall to get off her and not come near her. The call then terminated and the friend tried to call 999.
She only managed to get through to a Spanish operative but eventually managed to reach Crimestoppers to report that something had happened in Mount Hawke.
At 11:23pm police received the message and went to Mount Hawke but found the property in darkness and seemingly nobody at home. They knocked and peeped through an open window but left when there was no answer. Kendall was in the property at this time.
Miss Martin said: ‘Lee Kendall didn’t call an ambulance or the police. He was clearly awake at 4am as he tried to call his mother six times.
Just before 7am he walked to the village store and bought a bottle of vodka. He got changed and caught at bus to St Agnes to pick up his methadone script.
‘He called his mother again and said Michaela Hall was dead and that he didn’t do it, that she came at him with a knife. She told her son to call the police but he wouldn’t as he said they wouldn’t believe him.’
At this point Kendall got a bus to Truro and at the same time police officers went back to the property but again decided they didn’t have authority to forcibly enter as there was no sign of a disturbance or seemingly nobody at home.
Police also made a third visit but again didn’t enter. Ms Hall’s body was only found when her worried father got a spare key off a landlord and went into the property and found his daughter.
A cause of death was recorded as a stab wound to the eye socket and brain, with other injuries also present. The knife wound had penetrated 5cm to 9cm into the eye socket, clipping an artery causing a bleed to the brain.
Kendall cleaned up the scene before leaving, but his finger print was still found in the blood.
Kendall was back in Truro the next morning and stole alcohol before getting into arguments with homeless men and St Petrocs homeless shelter staff.
He was arrested on Boscawen Street and found to be in possession of two phones (one of which was used by Ms Hall) and an iPad.
Giving evidence Kendall at first denied ever punching or controlling Ms Hall and said on the night of her death Ms Hall had lunged at him with a knife and she accidentally sustained a stab wound to the eye during the ensuing struggle after a row about him not eating his dinner.
He says he lied to the police at first as they wouldn’t believe him.
As part of today’s sentencing hearing, the family of 49-year-old Michaela spoke of their ‘horror’ at what has followed her violent death.
Her eldest son said he suffered frequent nightmares and sleep paralysis as a result of what happened, and would be seeking therapy in the future.
He added: ‘I will never be able to give her a hug. When I do my GCSEs she won’t be able to help me.
‘I don’t have any parents now and I’m scared of losing any more of my loved ones.’
And her youngest son said: ‘Dear judge, I want to tell you some things about my mum. My mum was a good person and I love her very much. She doesn’t deserve this.
‘I will never get a phone call from her or a present. She will never pick me up from school.
‘This week I had to collect by belongings from my old house, which was very sad to see.’
Michaela’s mother said the family should have been celebrating Michaela’s birthday on October 20, 2021 and she had already bought a card early, which she would now never give her daughter.
‘Instead we went with her children to her graveside,’ she added. ‘They took plants and balloons, and sang happy birthday.’
Her mother said sometimes she dreams about her daughter dying, and that she and her husband arrive in time to save her – only to wake up and be hit with the reality again.
In comments directed to Kendall, she said: ‘I hope he remembers every day, for the rest of his life, the person he murdered.
‘How can I live without her? I find it hard to accept my daughter is dead, so I will have to live with that for the rest of my life.
‘Michaela was stabbed in her eye at home, where she should have been safe. How can anyone do something so horrific? How can anyone be so cruel?
‘I have no understanding about this level of evil. He murdered our precious daughter and left her to die in her house all alone.’
And Michaela’s sister said the family would now ‘drift through the rest of our lives,’ due to the void that had been left by Michaela’s murder.
Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector Stephanie Blundell, senior investigating officer in the case, said: ‘Michaela suffered repeated assaults by Kendall whose campaign of violence and intimidation prevented her from accessing help and breaking the cycle of abuse.
‘Michaela wanted to help Kendall, she gave him a home and he took advantage of her nature and support by repeatedly beating her during the course of their relationship and ultimately killing her.
‘Despite Kendall’s continuous lies and attempts to avail himself of any responsibility, a thorough and detailed investigation by determined officers from the Major Crime Investigation Team yielded the evidence to disprove his deceit.
‘I would like to commend the investigation and prosecution team as well as members of the public who came forward to assist the police and ensure justice was done. We send our deepest condolences to Michaela’s family, who have demonstrated extreme dignity throughout the investigation and proceedings.. I hope today’s outcome will bring some small comfort to them.’