By Katy Weitz
The family of an abuse victim who died on New Year’s Eve have spoken out after her violent partner was jailed for six months at Hastings Magistrates’ Court.
Sarah Leah was just 41 years old when she passed away in her sleep on December 31, just before she had been due to give evidence against her former partner Lewis Jeffs for two brutal attacks against her last year.
Jeffs left Sarah bruised, bloodied and in need of facial reconstruction after the two attacks in October and November 2017.
Her family said although she was ‘petrified’ of him, the mum-of-two had found the courage to make a statement to the police but died before the case was heard in court.
The cause of Sarah’s death is currently unknown. An inquest into her death has been opened and adjourned.
On January 31, Jeffs, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to three months in jail for each of the two assaults against Sarah and, with time already served on remand, he is expected to complete a fraction of that sentence.
Members of Sarah’s family have expressed dismay at the sentence, saying the CPS failed to take into account his previous convictions for assault and the seriousness of the attacks against her.
Sarah’s mum, who does not wish to be named, said: “He’ll be out in a few weeks and my daughter is dead. Justice has not been served.
“My Sarah deserves better.
“I thought that the courts were meant to be coming down harder on cases of domestic abuse. What message does it send out if he’s out in a matter of weeks?
“Why would victims come forward if that is the result?”
On November 8, Jeffs launched a brutal assault on Sarah, punching her on the side of her face and shattering her nose and cheekbones.
Then, on November 28, he came upon her with a knife in a public place.
Sarah’s mum said she feared what would have happened if the police had not arrived then.
Jeffs, 33, pleaded guilty to the two assault charges – as well as carrying an offensive weapon and theft – and a third charge was dropped.
Sarah’s mum added: “The horrible irony is that by the time of her death, Sarah was making great progress in turning her life around.
“She had engaged with the addiction services, found herself a new place to live and was actively taking steps to repair her relationships.
“She told her key worker she wanted to go back to college to study jewellery making. She had plans, she had hope, she had everything to live for – she was robbed of the chance to live a fulfilling life. I’m just trying to hang onto the good memories.
“She was a lovely girl – very happy and funny, with a kind heart.”