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Family of murdered Snettisham pub landlady celebrate conviction of her killer

PUBLISHED: 05:59 24 May 2011 | UPDATED: 16:49 24 May 2011

Michael Tucker, who has been found guilty of the  murder of Becky Thorpe. Picture: Ian Burt.

Michael Tucker, who has been found guilty of the murder of Becky Thorpe. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2010

Cries of "yes" from Becky Thorpe's family echoed around court room one at Norwich Crown Court yesterday afternoon as a jury found Michael Tucker guilty of her murder.

There were also hugs, smiles and the occasional fist pump from the murder victim’s friends after the jury’s male foreman announced the verdict.

Across the court room and standing with his hands in front of him, murderer Michael Tucker looked tired and dejected but remained emotionless as others celebrated his conviction.

The 50-year-old had denied murdering his girlfriend and business partner but never disputed he was the one who pulled the trigger of the .410 shotgun which killed the former Downham Market resident.

The jury sitting at Norwich Crown Court heard Tucker murdered Miss Thorpe, 28, in March last year after she told him she was having an affair and that he couldn’t see his children from a previous relationship.

Prosecutor Graham Parkins QC, told the court: “It caused almost instant death. The only comfort for her family and friends is that she was totally unaware.”

He said it was a “deliberate, purposeful and cold-blooded killing” carried out by a man who had “simply, on his own admission, lost his temper”.

Tucker is said to have later told police: “She didn’t even make a noise. She didn’t even make a sound. Her head just went to the right. I dropped the gun on the floor where it was.”

Tucker left Miss Thorpe’s body in the bath for two days before taking his partner out of the bath. He then wrapped in a duvet and plastic sheeting before carrying her out of the pub’s back door, across the yard and into a shed.

He then put her in a chest freezer and placed three empty beer kegs on the lid, the jury was told.

Mr Parkins added: “He left her there whilst he did the best he could to clean up and then simply carried on with his business more or less as usual.”

Over the following days Tucker gave various explanations as to where Miss Thorpe had gone, telling some people she was ill or tired, and others that she was visiting friends, the court heard.

Mr Parkins told jurors that the landlord also became involved with another woman, mother-of-three Laura Ellis and had slept with her shortly after he shot Miss Thorpe.

With Tucker running out of explanations for Miss Thorpe’s disappearance, he fled Norfolk on March 20 and travelled to the Isle of Wight.

He had told staff he was shutting for the weekend to spend time with Becky but would re-open the pub on Monday,

Shortly after leaving the county, he texted Ms Ellis saying: “It’s not your fault, I’ve made a mistake.”

When she asked what was the matter, he said: “I’ve done something wrong and it will be on the telly next week.”

In a later text Ms Ellis said whatever was wrong she could help, to which he replied: “Even for murder. I think not. Let me know. It’s Becks.”

The court heard a police officer who investigated the outhouse found the body in the freezer with “toes poking out” of the duvet at around 1pm on Tuesday, March 23. A post-mortem examination revealed she had died from a gunshot wound.

When Tucker was tracked down to the Bernay Hotel in Sandown, where he had registered under a false name, he was arrested on suspicion of murder.

He is said to have replied to the arresting officer: “It’s not suspicion, I’ve already admitted it.”

In later statements he told police he had lost his temper after Miss Thorpe spoke to him in a “tone of sarcasm and hatred all mixed into one”.

But he later said: “I don’t know whether I just wanted to scare her with it [the gun]. I don’t know because it went off. I didn’t deliberately set out to kill her.”

The court had heard last week in a letter written before his capture he wrote: “I can’t live with myself. All I want to do now is die.”

He described how he “just lost all self-control” and added: “What kind of animal am I to be able to do this?”

Tucker also made a previous indirect threat to shoot her, the murder trial jury were told last week.

The court heard evidence from Teresa Minns who accused her then partner, known only as “Paul”, of having an affair with Miss Thorpe.

The pet shop owner told the court she first went to the pub with Paul when it opened on Easter Sunday in 2009, but after that he regularly made visits without her.

Ms Minns also found text messages on his phone from Miss Thorpe and confronted Tucker about the possible affair in July 2009 during a brief visit to the pub.

According to Ms Minns, Tucker replied by saying: “I don’t think so but I can assure you if they were, I have a gun upstairs and I will shoot the pair of them, and you will find him at the bottom of Hunstanton cliffs”.

Tucker will be sentenced for the murder of Becky Thorpe today.

david.blackmore@archant.co.uk

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