UK

Fentanyl double murderer may have been driven by desire to control, says judge

Prosecutors said D’Wit created a fake will on his phone the day after the Baxters were found dead.

Stephen Baxter, 61, and his 64-year-old wife Carol who were murdered by Luke D’Wit
Stephen Baxter, 61, and his 64-year-old wife Carol who were murdered by Luke D’Wit

An IT worker who poisoned a married couple with fentanyl may have been motivated by a desire to control others, a judge said as he jailed him for life with a minimum term of 37 years for their murder.

Luke D’Wit, who befriended and worked for Stephen and Carol Baxter, created a gallery of fake personas to manipulate them in the two years before their deaths.

The 34-year-old had pretended to be a doctor from Florida and members of a fake support group for the thyroid condition Hashimoto’s, which Mrs Baxter had been diagnosed with.

He later changed their will to make him a director of their shower mat company.

Mrs Baxter, 64, and her 61-year-old husband were found dead at their home in West Mersea in Essex by their daughter Ellie on Easter Sunday last year.

D’Wit, of West Mersea, arrived soon after and described himself as a “friend” to a 999 call handler, before calmly giving a false account, as Ellie was heard in distress in the background.

Luke D’Wit, 34, who has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years for the murder of Stephen and Carol Baxter
Luke D’Wit, 34, who has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years for the murder of Stephen and Carol Baxter (Essex Police/PA)

Prosecutors said D’Wit created a fake will on his phone the day after the Baxters were found dead, making him a director of their shower mat company Cazsplash.

Another fake persona – a solicitor – was used in connection with the new will, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday, D’Wit was found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court of murdering the couple following a trial lasting more than a month.

The judge, Mr Justice Nicholas Lavender, sentencing D’Wit at the same court on Friday, described the defendant’s actions as “cruel and senseless”.

He said although D’Wit “made some attempts to secure an indirect gain” for himself after the Baxters’ death, “I am not sure that that was your principal motivation for killing them”.

“I consider that it is distinctly possible that what really motivated you was a desire to control others, as you had manipulated and controlled Carol Baxter in the two years before her death, and as you continued to manipulate Ellena Baxter after her parents’ death,” said the judge.

Ellie and Harry Baxter, the son and daughter of the Baxters, outside Chelmsford Crown Court
Ellie and Harry Baxter, the son and daughter of the Baxters, outside Chelmsford Crown Court (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Deciding whether another person lives or dies is the ultimate form of control.”

D’Wit, who wore a patterned blue short-sleeved shirt as he sat in a wheelchair in the secure dock, appeared to show no reaction as his sentence was read out.

The judge said he was sure that D’Wit “extracted the fentanyl from patches which had been originally prescribed for your father, who died in 2021”.

He said promethazine tablets were crushed into a powder.

He said D’Wit gave the drugs to Stephen and Carol Baxter in a drink on April 7, which they took as they trusted D’Wit to prepare “supposed health drinks” for them.

The defendant cleaned up afterwards, the judge said, adding that “when the Baxters were unconscious, you took the macabre step of using an application on two mobile telephones to monitor them while you left the house for a time”.

D’Wit was arrested at his place of work
D’Wit was arrested at his place of work (Essex police/PA)

The judge said that over the course of about nine years, D’Wit “became a close friend of the Baxters, who regarded you as a member of their family”.

Reading her victim impact statement in court, Ellie Baxter told how D’Wit “lied his way into our lives”.

She described him as a “man so manipulative he hacked his way into our lives over a decade ago, schemed and thoroughly planned my parents’ demise”.

She said her parents had “looked after Luke”, adding: “They just decided he was lonely, especially after Luke’s dad died.

“They took him under their wing and would let him join in.”

She said her mother was “completely brainwashed” by D’Wit, who posed as a doctor.

Stephen Baxter, 61, and his 64-year-old wife Carol
Stephen Baxter, 61, and his 64-year-old wife Carol (Essex Police/PA)

Ellie Baxter earlier said in evidence that her parents believed D’Wit was “weird, but nerdy weird”.

She said he had initially been brought into their shower mat business in about 2012 or 2013 to “help build the website” before eventually coming round to their house “every day”.

Prosecutor Tracy Ayling KC said D’Wit’s murder of Stephen and Carol Baxter involved “quite an extraordinary long-term case of manipulation”.

She told Chelmsford Crown Court that D’Wit created seven fake personas, “each with extra people, family members as well”, and started this in 2021.

The barrister said D’Wit was drugging Mrs Baxter, causing her to appear as if she had dementia or a stroke, and that the pain he was inflicting on her “was for (his) own satisfaction”.

She said D’Wit had previously tried to harm Mrs Baxter by giving her a pill with a tack inside it.

Luke D’Wit speaks to police at the scene after the deaths of Stephen and Carol Baxter
Luke D’Wit speaks to police at the scene after the deaths of Stephen and Carol Baxter (Essex Police/PA)

Adam Davis KC, mitigating for D’Wit, said the defendant knew he faced a lengthy sentence for the murders of Stephen and Carol Baxter.

Ellie Baxter, asked outside court about the sentence handed to D’Wit, said: “I think we are very pleased with the result.”

Detective Inspector Lydia George, senior investigating officer in the case, said D’Wit “clearly enjoyed the control he exerted over people, especially Carol and Stephen”.

“Ultimately, the only person in this world who knows why he acted this way is Luke D’Wit – and he has proven time and time again to be a manipulator,” she said.

“What we do know is; the significant sentence handed down today is entirely fitting for the pathological liar that he is.”