Tracey Woodford was described by her family as a kind, gentle and loving woman who grew up in South Wales, settling with her family in the town of Pontypridd, just over 10 miles away from Cardiff. She lived with her mother and brother and on 21 April 2015, the 47-year-old had gone shopping in the town, deciding to stop off at the Skinny Dog pub on her way home. This decision led her into the path of 50-year-old Christopher May, a man who also lived in Pontypridd and would lure her back to his flat, assault her and strangle the life from her before dismembering her body in his bathtub.
Christopher May placed Tracey Woodford’s dismembered head into a rucksack and walked through town with it on his back, taking her head out of the bag and leaving it positioned on a ledge a few hundred metres inside a storm drain nearby Pontypridd Rugby Club, before returning to his home.
On the evening Tracey Woodford was killed she got talking to Christopher May and the group he was drinking with inside the pub. She left willingly with him, a little worse for wear and the CCTV images of the pair show she was wearing May’s jacket to ward off the chill of the evening wind. Those CCTV images are the last sighting of Tracey Woodford alive and were the lead which led two police officers to the home of Christopher May in the Graig district of Pontypridd.
When May opened his front door, the officers were confronted with a foul odour, one which they knew they had to investigate further. May stood aside with no resistance and allowed them into his flat. The dismembered limbs of Tracey Woodford were found in the bath of the flat alongside the saw the former butcher had used to cut them. Inside a rucksack was Tracey’s torso, ready to be taken and disposed of at the storm drain.
A post-mortem showed that Tracey Woodford had been strangled to death, not an act that can be done by accident. It takes tremendous force and prolonged effort to strangle a person using your bare hands and it is by no means an easy task. Once May had killed Tracey, he moved her body into the bathtub and began using a saw to cut her into pieces ready for disposal. No remorse, no emotion and no consideration were shown for his victim in the acts he carried out on her body after her death.
Research has found those who dismember the bodies of their victims do so mainly as a method to conceal the crime but it can also be an expression of anger and rage against their victim. Furthermore, those with medical training or professional experience such as butchers may be desensitized to the act of dismemberment, even when what they are cutting up is another human being and not an animal.
There is little doubt that Christopher May turned to dismemberment of Tracey Woodford as a way to dispose of her body due to his experience as a butcher, but his actions highlight a cold and callous individual that can comfortably carry out such a gruesome act on another human being in order to try and protect himself from being caught.
Tracey Woodford’s harrowing death was considered a sexual crime and an especially brutal murder by Christopher May. His desire to get rid of all traces of Tracey led him to flush some body parts and organs down the toilet while disposing of others inside the storm drain not far from his home. It is believed that May’s intention was to dispose of Tracey’s body in this manner thinking the water would wash her dismembered body out to sea where she would not be found or traced back to him.
When the case came to court at the end of October 2015, May’s defence team wanted to show Christopher May in a good light. They highlighted he was a normal guy living in the town, he had friends, used to regularly drink and socialize in the pub and he was a liked and friendly neighbour. The prosecution, however, told a different story. One of a man who preyed on women, openly made crass and crude comments about them, and showed little respect.
May’s defence in the murder was that after he and Tracey had arrived back at his home, they had engaged in consensual sex and fell asleep. He said he had awoken to find Tracey going through his wallet which sparked an argument between them and in a fit of rage he had killed her. He claimed to remember little about the actual altercation but said when he realised what he had done he had panicked and decided to dismember her body in order to cover up the murder.
“No words can begin to explain what Christopher May has done to our family. His action on that night in April and over the following days with what he did to Tracey’s body has destroyed us all. We simply cannot understand how anyone could treat another human being in this way.”
On the third day of May’s trial at Cardiff Crown Court, the court heard evidence from forensic pathologist Derek James who testified that Tracey Woodford had a number of injuries to her body before she was dismembered. She was heavily bruised suggestive of a struggle with her attacker before she was killed. “It was possible that the injuries had been as a result of blows, trying to fend off blows as well as from being gripped,” he told the court.
Police believe the motive to be sexual with suggestion Christopher May may have engaged in sexual activity with Tracey Woodford after she was dead, however, this could not be proven. Evidence from his home computer showed that on the night the murder took place, May had watched online pornography for a number of hours, believed to have been after the murder had taken place, not suggestive of a man who was in a panic over his actions.
On 18 November 2015, the jury came back with a unanimous guilty verdict in less than one hour and Christopher May was sentenced to life in prison to serve a minimum of 28 years. Called a dangerous sexual predator, he may never be released from prison. “You have fought this case from start to finish,” Judge Davis told him. “…and remorse has not been a feature of your defence.” In a victim impact statement read to the court by Tracey’s brother, he said: “He didn’t just kill Tracey that night; he killed a part of us all.”