Pub chef under suspicion of murder ‘confessed’ to undercover officer, court told

A court artist sketch of Darren Osment, 41, at Bristol Crown Court where he is accused of killing his ex-partner Claire Holland (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
A court artist sketch of Darren Osment, 41, at Bristol Crown Court where he is accused of killing his ex-partner Claire Holland (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

A pub chef suspected of murdering his ex-partner after blaming her for their child being taken into care confessed to an undercover police officer, a court heard.

Darren Osment, 41, is accused of killing Claire Holland, 32, in a drunken argument hours after she was last seen leaving a pub in the centre of Bristol in June 2012.

Despite extensive police investigations the mother of four has never been seen since and her body never found.

Bristol Crown Court heard that when Osment fell under suspicion detectives deployed an undercover officer to befriend him.

Claire Holland has not been seen alive since June 2012 (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)
Claire Holland has not been seen alive since June 2012 (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Between December 2020 and July 2022, the officer – posing as a man called Paddy O’Hara – created a fiction of being involved in the criminal underworld with links to organised crime and enlisted the help of Osment.

Andrew Langdon KC, prosecuting, said the officer had witnessed many examples of Osment’s violent temper, particularly when drinking.

“That is relevant because we suggest that when he met with Claire Holland that night, he is likely to have lost his temper, lost control of himself and in using unrestrained violence, he killed her,” he said.

“In other words, he is a man with an explosive temper with a propensity to use violence when angry including to those who are weaker and more vulnerable than he.”

Mr Langdon said Osment had been “carrying the burden of knowing what he did to her” and had “sought to relieve himself of the burden” by making repeated confessions.

On one occasion, Paddy indicated to Osment he had killed a man in Belfast in the 1990s, Mr Langdon said.

“He, Darren Osment, said he would not go into details but he, ‘Did what he did’,” the prosecutor said.

“He said, ‘It’s not a thing you go into detail about’. It made him feel sick, but he did it for his child because she harmed his child.

“Darren Osment told Paddy with some hesitation that he had used ‘knife skills’ and he demonstrated on his own torso how he had cut Claire Holland’s body.

“He mentioned the body being weighted and that it ‘wasn’t going to come floating up’.”

Nathan Smith court case
Darren Osment appeared at Bristol Crown Court (PA)

Mr Langdon said that during the many conversations with Paddy, Osment never said anything to indicate that he thought she was still alive.

“He has, we suggest, never forgotten what he did to Claire,” he said.

“He has always been haunted by the memory of it, and that weight, the trauma of that memory, has taken a considerable toll upon him.”

The jury was told that after Osment was charged with murder and remanded in custody, he allegedly told a fellow inmate about Ms Holland’s death.

The inmate reported: “During the argument, Claire struck Darren. In retaliation Darren Osment grabbed Claire by the throat and took her down to the floor.

“Darren spoke and gestured that he pushed Claire down to the floor, on her neck and gestured with his hands that he was choking her. Darren said, ‘By the time I’d let go, she was gone’.”

The court heard the defendant and Ms Holland met in 2008 when they worked together in a cafe and began a relationship with a child being born in 2010.

Mr Langdon said the couple were both alcoholics and Ms Holland had drunk throughout the pregnancy – a source of tension between the pair.

When their child a few weeks old police were called to the home they shared in Bradley Stoke following allegations of alcohol-fuelled domestic violence.

Shortly afterwards the child was placed in foster care.

One social worker told police: “Darren was blaming Claire for the removal of the child due to the fact that she had called the police a few days before our visit and the police had attended their home address.”

There was little contact between Ms Holland and the defendant until the week of her disappearance, the court heard.

They had exchanged phone calls and Ms Holland told people in the pub on the night she vanished she was meeting Osment after he finished work as a chef at a pub in Clifton.

The prosecution said Osment has in the years since told several people he had killer her or paid someone else to.

He allegedly told one friend: “I… I did kill… I did kill her you know, I did kill my ex. I killed her. I… I killed my ex. I threw it off… into the river off Avonmouth Docks in Bristol. I strangled her.”

Asked why, Osment replied: “No c***, no stupid bitch is going to keep me away from my child.”

He is alleged to have told another friend: “I paid someone £500 to have the mother of my child executed.”

The defendant, of Chessel Drive, Patchway, South Gloucestershire, has pleaded not guilty murder on a date between June 5 and June 8 2012.

The trial continues.