Mother-of-four feared then boyfriend might kill her, court hears

Darren Osment, 41, is on trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of the murder of Claire Holland in 2012 (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Darren Osment, 41, is on trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of the murder of Claire Holland in 2012 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A mother-of-four who disappeared without a trace more than a decade ago feared her then-boyfriend might try and kill her, a court has heard.

Claire Holland, 32, has not been seen alive since leaving a pub in Bristol in June 2012 and her ex-partner Darren Osment, 41, is now on trial accused of her murder.

Prosecutors allege Osment, a pub chef, killed Ms Holland on the night of June 6 and disposed of her body after blaming her for their child being taken into care in 2010.

Bristol Crown Court heard both were alcoholics and there were allegations of domestic abuse between them during their two-year relationship.

Jurors heard witnesses recall conversations they had with Ms Holland describing the violence she suffered at the hands of Osment, while one said they had warned her not to meet up with him shortly before she disappeared.

Social worker Debbie Whitcliffe described speaking with Ms Holland either shortly before or after she gave birth to the defendant’s child in 2010.

She told jurors she had gone to the couple’s home in Bradley Stoke with two police officers and Osment was not present.

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)

“I remember Claire saying that she and Darren had an argument, and I don’t remember exactly what it had been about,” she told the court.

“She said they had both been drinking and Darren had hit her. In her presentation, she was very shaky and she said she was very scared of him.

“In response, my question was, ‘How scared are you?’ and she said she wouldn’t put it past him to try and kill her and she also said on a separate occasion he had tried to strangle her.

“The advice that I gave her was that we could find her a place in a women’s refuge, that she should take the place in the women’s refuge because it is a place of safety.

“Claire was very reluctant to go to a refuge and so she opted to go and stay with a friend instead.”

The court heard Miss Whitcliffe had told the police of this conversation in a statement in January 2023.

Ray Tully KC, representing Osment, suggested the passage of time may have affected her memory.

“The suggestion is that over 10 years after the event, when you were first being spoken to about it, you were able to recall these things without the need to consult any records at all?,” he asked.

She replied: “That was the recollection of my memory.”

Mr Tully asked: “You have obviously attended many events in the intervening years and no doubt attended events before then.

“Do you think it is possible that you may be miss-remembering some of this?”

She replied: “I don’t know. I can’t say if I am miss-remembering it. That’s my recollection as I do recall it.”

Darren Osment, 41, denies murdering Claire Holland (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Darren Osment, 41, denies murdering Claire Holland (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Miss Whitcliffe agreed with Andrew Langdon KC, prosecuting, there was “no doubt in her mind” the conversation happened but she was “not 100% sure” about being told about the allegation of strangulation.

The jury also heard from Kerry Davis, who supervised the contact sessions between Ms Holland and Osment and their child who was in foster care.

Describing their relationship, she said: “There were good times and bad times, there was domestic abuse.

“Most of the time it was fine. On one particular time in the back of my car, Darren was quietly aggressive towards Claire.

“I didn’t know them well and Darren was with Claire, and I could see she was uncomfortable. I didn’t hear what was being said.

“When they were living together, she said that he had grabbed her on separate occasions, he had wet the bed and made her clear it up.

“On one occasion he had spat at her.”

Shortly before she disappeared, Miss Davis had helped Ms Holland move into a flat in Lawrence Weston and she told her she was planning on meeting Osment.

Miss Davis told jurors: “She said she was going to meet Darren to discuss the child. I advised her not to do that and she said they needed to discuss things about the child, so I advised her to meet in a public place.”

Asked why she gave that advice, she replied: “Because of their history. Their relationship… it was very volatile, they both drink.

“When I found out she had gone missing I thought, ‘Oh God, she went to meet Darren’.”

Mr Tully suggested it would be “common sense” to advise someone to meet in a public place.

“In the world in which you work, dealing with people where there has been a breakdown of difficult relationships that would be standard advice, good advice, to anyone?,” he suggested.

“Yes,” she replied.

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

The trial continues.