EastEnders Murder: Tony McCluskie Jailed For Life

The brother of former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years for her murder.

Tony McCluskie had previously admitted manslaughter but was found guilty of murder by an 11 to 1 majority.

The 36-year-old window cleaner had claimed he killed his sister after a tirade of abuse from her. He said the last thing he remembered was her coming at him with a knife.

Miss McCluskie's torso was found floating in the Regent's Canal in east London a week after the killing after the suitcase her brother had used to dump the body broke open.

Her limbs were found wrapped in black bags a week later, but her head was not discovered for six months.

She had been hit over the head at least twice before her body had been hacked into six pieces.

Alison Saunders, London's Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: "The strong case against McCluskie led to him admitting unlawfully killing his sister and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, saying it was not intentional and that he had lost control.

"But the prosecution did not accept his plea to manslaughter. We felt that the evidence of brutality showed a deliberate intent to cause death or serious bodily harm to Gemma, which amounts to murder."

The prosecution said Miss McCluskie had been killed after telling her brother to move out of the flat they shared in Shoreditch, east London last year.

Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, said there had been tensions between the pair for some time.

"Gemma told a friend 'He's permanently stoned. He puts a spliff in his mouth first thing in the morning and doesn't know what he's doing'," he told the court.

"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."

After the verdict, Tony McCluskie Senior said he would not desert his son.

"I know that my son, Tony Junior, is suffering too. I will not desert him even though he has committed this terrible crime and taken Gemma's life.

"I hope and pray that one day Tony will be released from prison with a better understanding of his actions."

After the murder, McCluskie sent his sister a text pretending she was still alive and ending "Love ya xx". He later told police that his sister was seen in a local kebab shop after she went missing and that she had visited their mother in hospital.

The court heard that McCluskie received a series of hoax telephone calls following his sister's disappearance.

In the first call, the defendant was told that if he wanted to see his sister again he needed to take £2m to Benfleet International station. A second call requested that he also bring \$500 worth of Iraqi currency, before a third repeated the demand for £2m.

"The truth is that the defendant could not have believed his luck," Mr Aylett said.

"The calls can only have added to the state of confusion as to Gemma's whereabouts."

Police later traced the telephone calls to an address in Kent and arrested a man.

Miss McCluskie played Kerry Skinner, the niece of Ethel Skinner, in the BBC soap in 2001.