Stepfather gets life in jail for killing girl, 15

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The Independent Online

A factory worker who murdered his stepdaughter and tried to hide the crime by sending her mother false text messages was jailed for life yesterday.

Michael Baldwin, 36, bought a mobile phone shortly after burying 15-year-old Jenna Baldwin in a shallow grave. He used it to make calls pretending to be the teenager.

A jury at Cardiff Crown Court took six hours to convict Baldwin after hearing that he had killed Jenna, probably by strangling her, after the pair had a row at the family home.

The shaven-headed defendant, a judo expert, claimed that his stepdaughter had died by falling down a flight of stairs during the argument in September last year and he had been panicked into burying her at a hillside beauty spot near Blaenavon, south Wales.

As he sentenced Baldwin to life, Judge Griffith Williams said the story was part of a coolly executed cover-up by a self-obsessed killer. The judge said: "You are an arrogant man interested in getting your own way. You are short tempered and something of a bully.

"The likelihood is that you lost your temper and strangled [Jenna]. After that you did not panic but made a clear and calculated attempt to cover up. You have shown nothing but self pity and not a trace of remorse for the death of a young and popular girl."

Police became suspicious of Baldwin, who took part in media appeals for Jenna to return home, after he claimed to have received a phone call from his stepdaughter, which phone records showed was never made. He was placed under surveillance for up to 16 hours a day while still living with Jenna's mother, Desiree, and her two other children, in Abersychan, near Pontypool.

Despite officially treating Jenna's disappearance as a missing persons inquiry, detectives became convinced she had been murdered by her stepfather when they saw him buy a mobile phone under a false name. Baldwin then started texting messages, purporting to be from the teenager, to his wife and other family members. He also made a silent call to his 10-year-old son using the same number.

After his arrest last November, the 15-stone judo brown belt told his wife where he had buried her daughter but claimed he had put her there after panicking on his way to hospital. The body was so decomposed that no cause of death could be established.

Outside court, Mrs Baldwin said: "I have now discovered this man is not only a liar and a deceitful person but he has shown absolutely no remorse for the terrible act he has committed."

During the six-week trial, the jury was told by a former cellmate of Baldwin that the stepfather had confessed to an affair with Jenna and that she was pregnant. Post-mortem tests found she was not.

Judge Griffith Williams told Baldwin: "Only you know the precise circumstances of Jenna's death and only time will tell if you are prepared to share your secret."