Landlord guilty of freezer murder

Monday 23 May 2011 17:50 BST

A pub landlord who shot his partner and then concealed her body in a freezer has been found guilty of murder.

Michael Tucker, 50, had denied murdering his partner, Rebecca Thorpe, 28, at The Compasses Inn, Snettisham, Norfolk, in March last year.

But following a week-long trial at Norwich Crown Court, the jury returned their unanimous verdict after 45 minutes of deliberation. Mr Justice Nicol said he would pass sentence tomorrow morning.

The court had earlier heard that Tucker had fetched a shotgun owned by Miss Thorpe following an argument in which she threatened to leave him and prevent him from seeing his children from a previous marriage.

Tucker shot his victim in the back of the head while she was in the bath at their home above the pub. He left her in the bath for two days before moving her to a freezer in an out-house.

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.

Earlier that day Tucker had told a friend: "Tell the police there is a shotgun under the bed and they will find her body in the freezer."

He later told police that on March 9, he had shot Miss Thorpe in the head with a shotgun while she lay in the bath.

Tucker appeared to continue living a normal life, running the business, employing staff and even having sex with another woman before fleeing to the Isle of Wight, where he was arrested for murder on March 23.

When he was arrested on suspicion of murder, he told officers: "It's not suspicion, I've already admitted it."

After the verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry said: "We welcome the guilty verdict for murder and feel that the facts of the case show clearly that Tucker knew what he was doing and carried out a deliberate act.

"This was obviously a tragic loss for Rebecca's family and our thoughts are with them at this time.

"It is important to remember that this event was also a real shock to the local community, who are not used to such horrific incidents."

Tucker, who denied murder, did not give evidence during the trial.

Defence counsel Karim Khalil QC, who will complete his mitigation tomorrow, said his client had a history of depression and alcoholism. Throughout the trial he had claimed he had not intended to kill Miss Thorpe and said she provoked him.

There were cheers from the public gallery as the verdict was delivered.

Miss Thorpe's family issued a statement which said: "Becky was a bubbly sporty young woman whose life was callously and clinically taken from us.

"No amount of punishment will bring our daughter and sister back, but the memories and comfort we receive from the local people, clubs and charities that Becky had become involved with, have and will continue to help bring us to terms with our loss.

"Though now at rest Becky's name and memory will continue with charitable events organised in her name.

"We would like to thank the legal teams and jurors for ensuring that Mr Tucker received the sentence that he deserved, despite his feeble attempts to escape the full responsibility for his actions."

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