The conviction of Kelly Barnes and Jodie Barnes, formerly Ramsbottom, for the murder of a 67-year-old man in his own home is the tragic culmination of a toxic relationship which was fuelled on drugs, drink and chaos, as crime reporter PETER WALSH reports.

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They were once partners in love who together turned to the most violent of crimes to help feed their drug habit which resulted in the horrific death of a pensioner – and a lifetime of sorrow for his devastated family.

Kelly and Jodie Barnes, formerly Ramsbottom, will both serve a minimum of 24 years after were found guilty of the murder of Barry Reeve.

Over the course of the four-week trial the jury heard about the depths of depravity, brutality, and sheer wickedness to which the two of them had sunk in a bid to feed an addiction to drugs and drink. By the time they attacked the unsuspecting Mr Reeve on February 9 last year Kelly, a mother of four, and Jodie, a mother of one, were desperately trying to satisfy a £400-a-week crack cocaine and heroin habit.

It was an addiction on which Kelly, who has bipolar disorder and only one lung, spent her disability living allowance and income support.

Regular trips were made to Cash Convertors to sell items, like some of the six TVs they had at their home in Bixley Close, to try to fund their habit.

But when the money had run out and attempts to flog stolen roller skates to punters in a city pub failed they turned to Mr Reeve, whom Jodie knew through her sister, who she described during the trial as a prostitute.

Despite having not paid him back previously it was Jodie who suggested they try to get cash from him again.

The plan was doomed to failure from the start because, as the court heard, Mr Reeve was a man of limited financial means, despite what he might have led others to believe.

Depending on whose account you believe, Kelly either sat in the lounge while Jodie attacked Mr Reeve after he refused to give them money.

Or, on Jodie’s account, Kelly battered Mr Reeve after he tried to rip off her trousers having refused her offer of Jodie’s “services” in return for money.

Ultimately they were both found guilty of the murder.

They then left the severely injured Mr Reeve bleeding profusely while they both ransacked his home, the two of them leaving bloody footprints in his lounge and kitchen as they carried on stealing.

After they were both arrested following the discovery of Mr Reeve’s body on February 26 – more than two weeks after he had been attacked, they both stayed silent, hoping to defend each other. This, after all was a couple united, united in love and all that they did.

Kelly was arrested at their home on February 29 while Jodie was arrested while a prisoner at HMP Peterborough.

She had been remanded in custody in relation to driving matters following a court hearing on February 14.

The couple, who went to school together and grew up on the same estate, took part in a civil ceremony after having been reunited through social media site Facebook three years ago.

Jodie had come out of a “volatile” 10-year relationship with an ex-partner during which she was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after she stabbed her in the side and shoulder.

She cooked for and looked after Kelly’s four children.

At one point the couple featured in the Norwich Evening News when they left their home with the children to live in a tent in woods at Trowse because they claimed they were suffering abuse at the hands of neighbours.

Jodie told Norwich Crown Court during the trial that she carried out orders barked by Kelly, who spent much of her time on the couch.

She said: “Kelly used to always say what was to be done.

“She would be on the settee most of the time shouting orders really.”

The jury heard evidence of the Kelly’s forceful nature during the trial when Chris Youell, prosecuting together with Karim Khalil QC, read out interviews police conducted with Kelly after her arrest, much of which she answered with “no comment”.

During one interview at Wymondham Police Investigation Centre (PIC) on March 2 last year, Kelly, left the room and pushed buzzers in the corridor.

DC Helen Christopher, who said she was “aggressive and intimidating”, later described how Kelly told her: “Don’t you ever call me a liar again. Keep away from me. I will kick your head in”.

But by the time the trial started the two women had fallen out, with both seeking to blame each other for the events they had previously not spoken of.

Their unity had been broken by Kelly’s belief Jodie had cheated on her while in prison.

The fallout was so severe that they had to be separated while travelling on the same prison van.

They refused to look at each other in the dock throughout the trial which, as far as Jodie was concerned, became more a proclamation of her faith rather than of innocence in relation to Mr Reeve’s murder.

Jodie, who left school at 13 and went to work on the land, wore a crucifix at all times, often had a Bible in hand and could be seen frequently praying.

During one outburst she said: “I’ve been to church and prayed for every single sin I’ve committed. My faith is very, very important to me and God has forgiven me.”

She said she was telling the “gospel truth” when insisting she had not attacked or hurt Mr Reeve.

But the cracks were there for all to see as she capitulated under the weight of her own lies which were to come crashing down around both her and her now ex-partner.

Both Kelly and Jodie were exposed as prolific liars and hardened criminals whose depravity knew no bounds.

The pair were inseparable and did everything together, as the crown has gone to great lengths to demonstrate during the course of the trial.

As Kelly told police during her interviews: “It was always me and Jodie.”

But as the two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment after being unanimously found guilty of the murder of Mr Reeve that unity was shattered forever – Kelly shouting and swearing at Jodie, calling her names as they were taken down from the dock.

In exposing them for the cold-blooded killers they are the jury has thankfully helped a family, united in grief, begin to slowly piece together their broken hearts.

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