The brother of EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie has been jailed for life for murdering and dismembering her in March of last year.
An 11-1 jury majority found Tony McCluskie, 36, guilty. He had previously admitted to manslaughter and was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 20 years.
McCluskie, a window cleaner and skunk cannabis smoker, listened to the verdict without any display of emotion at the Old Bailey in London. The last thing he remembers about the crime is his sister coming at him with a knife. He claims to have lost control after that.
The prosecution said he killed his sister after she asked him to leave the flat they shared in Pelter Street, Shoreditch, east London.
Prosecuting QC Crispin Aylett said “For some time there had been tension between Miss McCluskie and her brother.
“Gemma told a friend ‘He’s permanently stoned. He puts a spiff in his mouth first thing in the morning and doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“On Thursday March 1 last year, McCluskie had got up, gone to the bathroom and forgotten the taps were on in the sink.
“Unsurprisingly, Miss McCluskie was exasperated by this. She had had enough.
“Later, while she was out, her friends heard her arguing on the telephone with her brother about what had happened.
“It is clear that Gemma regarded this incident as the last straw and that she wanted the defendant to move out”.
Gemma McCluskie’s body was found floating in the Regent’s Canal in east London. McCluskie hit her over the head at least twice and hacked her body into six pieces using a cleaver and a knife.
The next day, McCluskie sent his sister a text to pretend she was still alive and ended it with “Love ya xx”. He also took a hefty suitcase to a nearby cab company and then dragged it towards the canal.
Gemma’s torso was found a week later when the case opened, and her limbs were found in black bags a week after that. Her head wasn’t discovered in the water for six months. She was identified by a small tattoo of a bow on her body and eventually by dental records.
She was last seen in public at the £650 million opening of the new Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.
To continue his ruse, McCluskie joined friends on searches for Gema across east London. Natalie Cassidy and Brooke Kinsella of EastEnders asked their Twitter followers to aid in the search.
McCluskie claimed his sister was seen in a local kebab shop after she went missing, and that she visited their mother in the hospital, but scientists discovered blood in the bathroom and a blood-stained knife in the kitchen of their flat.
He also received a number of hoax telephone calls after his sister’s disappearance, which added to the confusion of her whereabouts.
In the first call, McCluskie was told that he must take £2 million to Benfleet International station in order to see his sister again. A second call commanded him to bring 500 US dollars worth of Iraqi currency, while a third call repeated the demand for £2 million.
When McCluskie asked to speak to his sister, the caller told him that she had been stripped naked and was detained in a locked room.
“The truth is that the defendant could not have believed his luck”, Aylett said.
Police traced the telephone calls to a Kent man and arrested him.
During the trial, McCluskie told the court: “She came up the stairs, she was shouting ‘Are you gonna go, are you gonna go, are you gonna go?’.
“I turned round and she was standing there with a knife in her hand.
“I got very angry, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“All I remember is just grabbing her wrists. After that I have no recollection.
Gemma McCluskie played Kerry Skinner, the niece of Ethel Skinner, on screen in 2001.
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