Bricklayer to get life after being convicted of ‘horrendous’ murder of mother-of-five

Andrew Ratcliffe, who has been convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling 50-year-old Mary Roberts.

Andrew Ratcliffe, who has been convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling 50-year-old Mary Roberts.

A bricklayer who sexually assaulted and strangled a mother-of-five, whose partially clothed body was found at the rear of a Suffolk pub, will be jailed for life today after being convicted of her 'horrendous' murder.

Mother-of-five Mary Roberts.

Mother-of-five Mary Roberts.

Andrew Ratcliffe, 56, had denied murdering 50-year-old Mary Roberts, formerly of Long Melford, in March but was found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday after a week-long trial.

Judge John Devaux said he would have to pass a mandatory life sentence on Ratcliffe but adjourned sentence until today to allow him to consider the minimum term Ratcliffe will have to serve before he can be considered for release by the Parole Board.

During Ratcliffe's trial the prosecution claimed he was 'sexually obsessed' with Mrs Roberts and had strangled her after she resisted his advances.

In the weeks before her death Ratcliffe had bought Mrs Roberts chocolates and alcohol but she had made it clear she didn't want a relationship with him.

On the evening of her death Mrs Roberts had been drinking with Ratcliffe at the St Edmunds Tavern, in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds and her body was found by the landlady at around 8am on March 27 in a covered smoking area at the rear of the pub. A post-mortem examination found she had been strangled.

The court heard that when Ratcliffe, of Petch Close, Bury was arrested later the same day he was found to have a pair of Mrs Roberts' knickers and a ring she always wore in his coat pocket.

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His DNA was found on her left breast and on the waistband of her underwear and her blood was on his fingernails.

Ratcliffe claimed he had fallen asleep in the smoking area of the St Edmunds Tavern and had not noticed Mrs Roberts' body when he woke up in the dark.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hayward from the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation team said: 'Mary Roberts was a vulnerable woman who sadly died a horrendous death; we hope that the verdict today will go some way to provide some closure for her family and friends.'