Michael Tucker gets life for murder of Snettisham pub landlady Becky Thorpe
PUBLISHED: 10:35 24 May 2011 | UPDATED: 16:42 24 May 2011
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A pub landlord has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his girlfriend and business partner and dumping her body in a freezer.
It took the jury in the trial of Michael Tucker, 50, less than an hour yesterday to reach their verdict and convict Tucker of the murder of Becky Thorpe.
Today, Mr Justice Nicol told Tucker he must serve at least 26 years before he can be considered to be released on licence.
Tucker, wearing dark jeans, grey shirt and jumper, was then led away from the court as the victim’s family watched on in silence.
Tucker had shot Miss Thorpe, 28, in March last year at the Compasses Inn in Snettisham after she told him she was having an affair and that she didn’t want him seeing his children from a previous relationship again.
After leaving her body in the bath for two days, Tucker wrapped her body in a duvet and dumped it in the freezer.
Tucker had always denied murdering Miss Thorpe, who once worked as a dental nurse in Downham Market, and his six-day trial had started last Monday.
Sentencing Tucker, Mr Justice Nicol said: “She was lying in the bath with her back to you. You got a shotgun and you fired it at the back of her head.
“The end of the barrel was no more than two and a half feet away from her when you pulled the trigger. The jury’s verdict means they were sure that you, at least, intended to cause Becky really serious harm.
“But, since you intentionally shot her in the head at that close range, in my view the only proper inference is that you meant to kill her.
“Becky was only 28 at the time of her death. Witnesses described her as a bubbly personality and she was a keen and talented hockey player.
“Your act cut short that life. Her death has been a tragedy for her family and friends.”
Tucker was told after serving the minimum term of 26 years he could be released on licence but that the parole board will decide when it is safe for this to happen.
He continued: “There was one aggravating feature here and that is your breach of trust. Becky and you lived together and she died in your bathroom.
“There was not the dependence of a child on a parent, but she had no reason to believe that you would use any, let alone fatal, violence upon her.
“She had no thought of the need to protect herself.”
In reaching the minimum term of imprisonment sentence, the judge told Tucker that he accepted that Miss Thorpe’s killing was not a premeditated crime.
He added: “It was not something you had planned before that evening. It may be, as you said to the police, that you were prompted to go and get the gun because of something Becky said while she was in the bath.
“Perhaps it was about trying to limit your contact with your children who live with your ex-wife. Perhaps it was about her relationship with another man.
“Whatever it was that may have led you to lose your temper or made you angry, the jury’s verdict means there were sure that you were not provoked in the legal sense of the term.”
Mr Justice Nicol said that he also accepted that Tucker was under a “degree of strain” in March last year.
He said: “The Compasses Inn, the pub which you and Becky had been running for the previous year, was not doing very well.
“There were some loyal customers, but not very many of them. Your ability to cope with that strain was reduced because of the state of your health.
“You seem to have suffered from angina. You have also suffered from alcohol dependence syndrome which was diagnosed as long ago as 1993 but which persisted up until Becky’s death.
“It was admitted by the Crown that you have a history of mental health problems, particularly depression, that is attributable to your alcoholism.
“Before you met Becky you twice attempted to commit suicide. In the period of about a year which you were living together at the pub in Snettisham, you tried to commit suicide once, and probably twice, again.
He added: “I have been told something of your earlier history. It is not necessary for me to say more about those matters.
“In themselves they provide no mitigation but those experiences may have contributed to your recourse to alcohol and, directly or indirectly, to your mental health problems.”
Norwich Crown Court heard that Tucker has previous convictions which include three assaults on a former partner.
Concluding, Mr Justice Nicol said: “Your counsel has submitted that your behaviour afterwards was consistent with remorse at the awful consequences of your conduct.
“I think that the evidence is more equivocal in the days immediately following that crime.
“You hid Becky’s body in the freezer. You were visited by your ex-wife from Ireland and, as one witness put it, you seems to those who did not know you as though you were an ordinary couple.
“Another woman was clearly in love with you and she and you (slept) together upstairs in the pub only a few days after Becky’s death.
“When you left (Norfolk) to go to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight you took your passport with you.
“However, at least by the time you wrote your letter to the police on Sunday, March 21 you do appear to have appreciated the dreadful nature of what you had done and to have been filled with remorse.
“Even though you have contested this trial, I take into account in your favour that it was your text messages which alerted the police to where Becky’s body could be found.
“Your letter to the police also admitted that it had been you who shot Becky.
“Your admission in that letter and in the subsequent police interviews meant that the police did not have to investigate and prove that it had been you who fired the gun.
“To that extent you have not deviated from accepting responsibility for her death.”
The 423 days that Tucker spent in custody before today will be deducted from his sentence.