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Stephanie Langley accused of murdering Matthew Bryant, landlord of Hare and Hounds, Maidstone

A woman on trial for the murder of a pub landlord “laughed” as people tried to save his life, a court has heard.

Stephanie Langley was sitting on a table outside the Hare and Hounds pub in Maidstone just feet from where her fatally injured ex brother-in-law was laying in the road.

Landlord Matthew Bryant died after being stabbed
Landlord Matthew Bryant died after being stabbed

Maidstone Crown Court was told that the mum of two stabbed the 52-year-old three times after he had dialled 999 to report she had repeatedly threatened to have him killed.

Although his phone was knocked from his hand by Langley, the line to police was still open when Matthew Bryant was struck with the large kitchen knife - twice to the back and once to the chest.

He could then be heard to say: “I've just been stabbed.”

The fatal wound to his torso penetrated 20cm deep. A pathologist later concluded it was “unsurvivable” without immediate surgery.

Langley, 54, denies murder as well as the alternative offence of manslaughter, but has admitted a charge of possessing a knife.

At the start of her trial earlier this week, jurors were told by the prosecution that the “irrational but deliberate” attack occurred just minutes after she had told a customer at the pub “Get a drink now while he’s still alive”.

A cordon in place at the Hare and Hounds pub in Maidstone town centre
A cordon in place at the Hare and Hounds pub in Maidstone town centre

The court heard Langley, of Wilsons Lane, East Farleigh, had arrived at 5.53pm on September 11 last year.

Having been served a whiskey by Mr Bryant, who ran the Lower Boxley Road venue with his wife Caroline, the pair sat at a table where they were captured chatting on CCTV.

Other than an incident at the pub in March or May that year, when Langley was allegedly drunk and abusive, Mr Bryant had not had any contact with his former sister-in-law in more than 20 years.

But the court heard that having told him to serve regular Martin Greenacre as he stood at the bar, Langley “calmly” uttered her threat.

Giving evidence on Thursday, April 11, Mr Greenacre said he had seen the landlord chatting to the woman but could not initially see who she was as Mr Bryant was blocking his view.

They were talking and were very quiet before Langley informed the publican: “You've got a customer.”

Police at the scene outside the Hare and Hounds pub in Maidstone
Police at the scene outside the Hare and Hounds pub in Maidstone

As Mr Bryant got up from the table, Mr Greenacre recognised her as the same woman who had been at the pub a few months earlier.

On that occasion, Langley, he said, was “just not very nice” and “for some reason didn’t like Matt”, describing how he heard screaming and shouting and she had to be calmed down by her son.

Recalling the day of the alleged murder, Mr Greenacre said Mr Bryant, on being told by Langley of his presence at the bar, greeted him with his customary “Hello sweetheart”.

The pub regular then told the court: “As he was serving, she (Langley) looked at me and said ‘Get a drink now while he’s still alive’.”

Asked by prosecutor Nina Ellin how the remark had been made, Mr Greenacre replied: “Very calmly...It was just one of those unreal moments.”

He said he did not respond but saw the woman smashing up to six times what he believed to be a phone on the table where she was sitting.

Floral tributes left at the pub after landlord Matthew Bryant died
Floral tributes left at the pub after landlord Matthew Bryant died

At that point and just four minutes after Langley had arrived, Mrs Bryant came in and told her to leave.

“She came in, said ‘I don't need this, I don’t want you here, I want you gone’ to the lady,” continued Mr Greenacre.

“She obviously wasn't very happy she was there. It wasn’t a greeting, it was ‘I don't want you here’.

“Everything then went outside. She (Langley) got up. I think Caroline did say ‘Call the police’ to Matt.”

Mr Greenacre added that all three went outside and Langley walked off “towards the town”.

He then went to the smoking area at the rear and, on his return inside, saw Mrs Bryant running in, saying ‘Oh my God, she’s stabbed Matt’.

The Hare and Hounds in Maidstone
The Hare and Hounds in Maidstone

Mr Greenacre said he could see through the front doorway that Mr Bryant was lying on the road, face-up, with two or three people trying to help him.

Asked if he could see Langley, he told the court: “She was on one of the benches outside. Laughing. I did hear the laughter.

“I also heard Caroline say ‘Don't let her leave’. There were two or three people trying to help him...I was hoping he would be okay.”

Mr Greenacre said Mr Bryant and Langley had been “talking nicely” while at the table inside and there were no raised voices.

In response to suggestions by Langley’s barrister, John Cooper, that she made her comment to him after becoming upset at something her ex brother-in-law had said, Mr Greenacre maintained her demeanour had been calm.

“She just said it. There was no aggression in it, there was no laughing. It was just said,” he told the jury.

Maidstone Crown Court
Maidstone Crown Court

The court also heard from Langley’s employer at the time, Roy Plommer.

Mr Plommer said his housekeeper of more than three years was “incredibly sensible and charming” but on the morning of Mr Bryant’s killing had not been her “normal relaxed self”.

Usually very prompt, she arrived to clean his home up to 90 minutes late, accidentally broke a wooden tray - her first ever breakage - and told Mr Plommer she “just wanted it all over” and to go on holiday,

The jury also heard she was dealing with what her boss described as “extreme external pressures” and family disputes that she found “heartbreaking”.

Mr Plommer added that issues “centred around one man’s bad behaviour”.

Having arrived later than usual, she then left early at around 11am, only to call him at about 4.30pm - approximately 90 minutes before Mr Bryant was killed - in “absolute distress”.

“She just said it. There was no aggression in it, there was no laughing. It was just said…”

Mr Plommer told the court: “There was practically no voice there. Her voice was shaking. She was in absolute total distress like I had never seen her before. It was a small, totally unhappy voice.”

The court heard Langley asked to see her employer, which he agreed, but she contacted him again at 5.16pm to say she would not be coming.

“She sounded a little calmer but nowhere near the woman I had known for three-and-a-half years. Here was someone who was totally destroyed.”

He told the jury he heard nothing further from her, and was informed the next day by her son of the incident.

In both a letter he said he handed to the Crown Prosecution Service and a statement he gave to police, Mr Plommer described Langley as someone whose “fortitude and sound common sense” he had always admired.

He wrote: "In the time I have known Stephanie I have found her to be a cheerful, diligent, totally reliable, open, honest and hard-working person who has been an asset to my household.”

The trial continues.

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