Police officer strangled ex-girlfriend after learning she had a new partner


A former police officer has been jailed for 16 years for a “brutal” attempt to kill his ex-girlfriend after he learned she was planning to start a relationship with another man.

James Riley, 28, strangled PhD student Ellie Moxham and left her unconscious in a hotel room in Manchester on 10 November 2022 before calling for an ambulance about 11 minutes later.

She was put into an induced coma and woke up the next day, but still suffers cognitive difficulties and anxiety.

Riley, of Jepps Avenue in Barton, Preston, was at the time an off-duty officer for Lancashire Police, a role from which he was dismissed last year.

Sentencing Riley for attempted murder at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Patrick Field said he was consumed with “uncontrollable anger and a jealous rage”.

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“It is clear that she had no intention whatsoever of reconciling with you. She was intent on forming a new relationship with another man,” he said.

“As a result of that you became consumed by uncontrollable anger and a jealous rage, and you attacked her with murderous intent.”

James Riley was captured on CCTV. Pic: GMP

The couple had been in a relationship for several years and bought a house together in 2021, but it was effectively over by the time of the attack.

The relationship had become “characterised by jealousy and possessive behaviour” on Riley’s part, the judge said, but Miss Moxham had agreed to earlier plans to attend a concert with him.

‘I’ve killed Ellie’

She was persuaded to stay at a hotel – a decision the judge is “sure she will forever regret” – and this all may have been interpreted as a willingness to reconcile, Judge Field said, referring to a pre-sentence report.

Miss Moxham has no memory of the incident, but it was “clear” Riley “gripped her throat and strangled her with such force over a significant period that her brain was starved of oxygen”.

Judge Field went on: “To your discredit – once you realised Miss Moxham was indeed very seriously injured and in need of expert medical assistance – your first reaction seems to have been to call your parents to speak to them for about 11 minutes before, almost as an afterthought, calling for an ambulance.”

At 11.16pm Riley phoned his parents and told them: “I’ve killed Ellie and I’m going to kill myself. I just wanted to say goodbye.”

James Riley appearing on CCTV. Pic: GMP

Riley’s mother called the police following the call and one minute later Riley himself rang for an ambulance.

As he made the 999 call, he was captured on CCTV fleeing the hotel through the fire escape, the court heard.

Riley had been due to go on trial last November but changed his plea to guilty a week before.

‘James destroyed my self-esteem’

The ongoing cognitive problems for Miss Moxham, a student at Lancaster University with teaching responsibilities, have been a “serious impairment”, the judge added.

She suffered from severe fatigue, poor concentration, memory deficit and frequent headaches, the court heard.

“Although I count myself as extremely fortunate that I cannot remember anything about that night, I frequently have terrifying nightmares in which I am being attacked, strangled and suffocated,” she said.

“This has all fed into feelings of anxiety in my day-to-day life and a tendency to overthink.”

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She told the court that the pain in her life Riley had caused was “nigh on indescribable”.

“James destroyed my self-esteem by making derogatory comments about my looks. He said he was superior to me at everything and that I could do nothing right,” she added.

“He became increasingly frustrated and angry at the slightest things. My character would be obliterated and it was always my fault.

“He alienated me from myself. I think it will take a long time to respect me again.”

David James, defending, said: “Mr Riley knows he has let down everyone in his life. He knows he has let down the police force and his police colleagues.

“He wishes to apologise to his family but most of all he does wish to publicly apologise to Miss Moxham.”

Riley, who must serve two-thirds of his jail term before he can be released on licence, was also issued a restraining order preventing him from contacting Miss Moxham or knowingly going within 50 metres of her.

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