26 years for killer pub landlord

A pub landlord who shot his partner while she was in the bath and then hid her body in a freezer will serve at least 26 years of a life sentence.

Michael Tucker, 50, denied murdering his partner Rebecca Thorpe, 28, at the Compasses Inn, Snettisham, Norfolk, in March last year. But he was found guilty after a week-long trial at Norwich Crown Court.

Sentencing him, Mr Justice Nicol said: "You have been convicted of murdering Rebecca Thorpe. She was lying in the bath with her back to you. You got a shotgun, which was nearby. You fired it at the back of her head.

"The end of the barrel was no more than two and a half feet away from her when you pulled the trigger.

"The jury's verdict means they were sure you that you at least intended to cause Becky really serious harm.

"But, since you intentionally shot her in the head at close range, in my view the only proper inference is that you meant to kill her."

He added that witnesses had described Miss Thorpe as a "kind and bubbly" person. She was a keen and talented hockey player.

"Your act cut short that life," the judge added. "Her death has been a tragedy for her family and friends."

The judge went on: "There is one aggravating factor here and that is your breach of trust.

"Becky and you lived together. She died in your bathroom. She had no reason to believe that you would use any, let alone fatal, violence upon her. She had no thought of the need to protect herself."

Defence barrister Karim Khalil QC said Tucker had a long history of depression and alcoholism. He had made five previous suicide attempts.

Tucker, who has two children from a previous marriage, has previous convictions including three minor assaults on a former partner.

Mr Justice Nicol said that, after the murder, Tucker attempted to live a normal life.

"You hid Becky's body in the freezer. You were visited by your ex-wife from Ireland and, as one witness put it, you seemed, to those who did not know you, as though you were an ordinary couple.

"Another woman was clearly in love with you and she and you had sex together upstairs in the pub only a few days after Becky's death."

Tucker and Miss Thorpe were the landlords of The Compasses Inn at the time of the killing. On March 23 an off-duty police officer who was passing the pub was called into the premises after being told that a body had been found in a freezer.

Later that day Tucker was arrested at a hotel on the Isle of Wight. He had written a letter to police outlining what he had done.

He told officers that, on March 9, he had shot Miss Thorpe in the head with a shotgun while she lay in the bath after she said she would prevent him from seeing his children and that she had met a new man.

Mr Justice Nicol said: "At least by the time you wrote your letter to the police, you do appear to have appreciated the dreadful nature of what you had done and to have been filled with remorse.

"When the police were at the door of your hotel room, you seem to have made another attempt to take your own life."

Tucker's family told the Eastern Daily Press that "he could rot in hell".

Speaking to the newspaper, his niece, Kelly Stevens, said: "We are all delighted with the verdict. It has not come as a shock to us at all because we were just praying he wouldn't get away with murdering Becky.

"We were all horrified by what we read about her being shot in the bath and then kept there for two days. All the family have been reading what went on during the trial and we have all disowned him.

"We feel terrible for what he did to Becky and her family but hopefully now this will give both families the chance to move on, knowing that he is locked up and can't do anything like that again."

She added: "As far as his mum is concerned she doesn't want anything more to do with him. She wants him to rot in hell."

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