Brother jailed for life for murdering ex-EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie before dumping body in canal
Wednesday 30 January 2013
The brother of former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie was today sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years for killing her.
Tony McCluskie was found guilty of murder by an 11-1 majority at the Old Bailey. He had previously admitted manslaughter.
There were gasps and cries in the courtroom as the verdict was given but McCluskie stood emotionless in the dock.
Miss McCluskie's mutilated body was found floating in the Regent's Canal in east London.
McCluskie, a 36-year-old window cleaner and skunk cannabis smoker, claimed to have lost control after a tirade of abuse from his sister.
He said the last thing he remembered was her coming at him with a knife.
But the prosecution said he killed his 29-year-old sister after she lost patience with him and asked him to leave the flat in Pelter Street, Shoreditch, east London, where they lived.
The final straw came when McCluskie left taps running and a sink overflowed in March last year.
She was killed by being hit over the head at least twice and her body was hacked into six pieces using a cleaver and a knife.
The next day, McCluskie lugged a heavy suitcase to a local cab firm and was last seen taking it towards the canal.
Miss McCluskie's torso was found a week later when the case snapped open, and her limbs were found in black bags a week later.
But her head was not found for six months when it too was discovered in the water.
Miss McCluskie who played Kerry Skinner, the niece of Ethel Skinner, on screen in 2001, was immediately missed.
She was last seen attending the £650 million opening of the new Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.
McCluskie joined friends who launched extensive searches across east London to find her.
Former EastEnders co-stars Natalie Cassidy and Brooke Kinsella both appealed on Twitter for help.
Miss McCluskie's friend, Nicole McLaren, said she hugged McCluskie because she felt sorry for him as they searched for her.
But, said Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, McCluskie sent police on a wild goose chase after the actress was reported missing.
Mr Aylett said: "For some time, there had been tension between Miss McCluskie and her brother.
"Gemma told a friend 'He's permanently stoned. He puts a spliff in his mouth first thing in the morning and doesn't know what he's doing'."
"On Thursday March 1 last year, McCluskie had got up, gone to the bathroom and forgotten the taps were on in the sink.
"Unsurprisingly, Miss McCluskie was exasperated by this. She had had enough.
"Later, while she was out, her friends heard her arguing on the telephone with her brother about what had happened.
"It is clear that Gemma regarded this incident as the last straw and that she wanted the defendant to move out."
Mr Aylett said the next day McCluskie sent his sister a text pretending she was still alive and ending "Love ya xx".
Miss McCluskie was identified by a small tattoo of a bow on her body and later by dental records.
McCluskie told police that his sister was seen in a local kebab shop after she went missing, and that she had visited their mother in hospital.
But scientists found blood in the bathroom and a blood-stained knife in the kitchen of the flat.
The court heard that McCluskie received a series of hoax telephone calls following his sister's disappearance.
In the first call, the defendant was told that if he wanted to see his sister again he must take £2 million to Benfleet International station.
A second call was made requesting that he also bring 500 US dollars worth of Iraqi currency, before a third hoax call repeated the demand for £2 million.
When the defendant asked to speak to his sister, the caller said Miss McCluskie had been stripped of her clothes and was being kept in a locked room.
"The truth is that the defendant could not have believed his luck," Mr Aylett said.
"The calls can only have added to the state of confusion as to Gemma's whereabouts."
Police later traced the telephone calls to an address in Kent and arrested a man.
McCluskie told the court: "She came up the stairs, she was shouting 'Are you gonna go, are you gonna go, are you gonna go?'.
"I turned round and she was standing there with a knife in her hand.
"I got very angry, I just couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"All I remember is just grabbing her wrists. After that I have no recollection."
Alison Saunders, London's Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: "This was an extremely distressing and violent case. McCluskie used all means possible to divert suspicion away from himself, giving false hope to family and friends. After committing the crime on March 1 2012, he filed a missing persons report and gave false information to the police.
"The strong case against McCluskie led to him admitting unlawfully killing his sister and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, saying it was not intentional and that he had lost control.
"But the prosecution did not accept his plea to manslaughter. We felt that the evidence of brutality showed a deliberate intent to cause death or serious bodily harm to Gemma, which amounts to murder."
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