Former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie 'was killed after row about overflowing sink'

 

Former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie was beaten to death by her brother after a row over an overflowing sink, a court heard today.

Tony McCluskie had left taps on at the flat they shared and Miss McCluskie, 29, thought this was the "last straw".

She drove home to ask the cannabis-smoking McCluskie to leave but was never seen alive again, the Old Bailey was told.

Crispin Aylett, QC, prosecuting, said McCluskie killed his sister, cut up her body and dumped it in the Regent's Canal in east London.

He then led police on a "wild goose chase" after reporting her missing in March, last year, jurors heard.

McCluskie, 35, of Pelter Street, Shoreditch, east London, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his sister but denies murder.

He claims to have "blanked out" after arguing with her and has no recollection of killing her, the court was told.

Miss McCluskie played Kerry Skinner, the niece of Ethel Skinner, in the BBC soap in 2001.

Mr Aylett said: "For some time, there had been tension between Miss McCluskie and her brother.

"To Gemma, this was largely as a result of the defendant's habitual use of cannabis - and its most toxic form, skunk.

"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".

Her friends had grown anxious about her and had not been able to contact her.

"A number of them began calling or sending texts to the defendant asking if he had heard from her," Mr Aylett added.

To one on Saturday night, he replied: "She didn't take the car, keys are on the side in the kitchen plus we wouldn't know if she took any clothes (as) she (has) so many!"

Then he reported her missing to police who from details given to them by McCluskie, categorised her disappearance as low risk.

On Sunday, McCluskie told officers that a former boyfriend owed her money and police should speak to him.

One hundred friends held a meeting in a local pub and then went out distributing leaflets appealing for information.

McCluskie did not turn up at the pub until after the meeting had broken up, said Mr Aylett.

On Tuesday morning, a woman navigating her barge on the canal in Hackney, noticed a suitcase floating in the water. It hit the side of the vessel and sprung open.

He said: "Inside was a female torso, no legs, no arms and no head."

Miss McCluskie had been identified by a small tattoo of a bow on her body.

Over the next fortnight, her arms and legs were recovered separately from the water.

But her head, which had been dumped in the canal at the same time, was not found until September.

Mr Aylett said McCluskie told police that his sister had been seen in a local kebab shop after she went missing, and that she had visited their mother in hospital.

But scientists had found blood in the bathroom and a blood-stained knife in the kitchen of the flat.

Police discovered that a man with a heavy suitcase matching McCluskie's description had taken a minicab to the canal the day after his sister disappeared.

Blood was found in the boot of the car and McCluskie's father and brother "no doubt with heavy hearts" said they recognised him from CCTV.

Mr Aylett continued: "The defendant must have killed Gemma, no doubt in the course of a quarrel.

"He then dismembered her body before disposing of the body parts, including the head, in the canal.

"The defendant had seemed keen to help the police with their investigation.

"In fact, the defendant was leading the police on a wild goose chase."

A pathologist had found bruises on Miss McCluskie's arms and legs made before she died.

He had also found cuts to her scalp indicating that she had been struck over the head at least twice with a blunt instrument.

Mr Aylett added: "The defendant claims not to know how he killed his sister.

"He describes having had an argument with Gemma. After that, it is said that everything is a blank.

"He does not remember killing her, nor can he recall cutting her up, nor does he remember dumping her body in the canal."

But this was not accepted by the prosecution.

"No doubt he did it in the heat of the moment, no doubt he soon came to regret what he had done," added Mr Aylett.

"He did everything he could to put himself beyond suspicion."

A forensic anatomy expert believed a cleaver was most likely to have been used to carry out the dismemberment of Miss McCluskie's body over a period of two to three hours, Mr Aylett said.

The court heard 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 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, Mr Aylett said.

"The truth, it may seem to you, is that the defendant could not have believed his luck," Mr Aylett said.

"While there is no reason to suppose that the defendant had put the hoaxer up to making these calls, 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 on March 8.

The trial was adjourned until 10.30am tomorrow.

PA

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star