A young man who was trusted to walk his childhood friend home but raped and murdered her has been jailed for life.
Wesley Streete, 20, was convicted on 5 August of Keeley Bunker’s murder despite claiming he had accidentally killed her during consensual sex.
He was also convicted of two other counts of rape, three counts of sexual assault and a charge of sexual activity with a child, against three other victims, said to have happened in previous years.
On Friday, he was given a minimum of 29 years in jail.
Stafford Crown Court heard how Streete, a former warehouse packer, had joined Bunker and her best friend Monique Riggon in Birmingham for a night out celebrating her birthday before getting a taxi back to Tamworth.
They went to Riggon’s home early on 19 September and Streete was trusted to walk Bunker, also 20, to her house.
She told Riggon: “Wes will walk me back, it’ll be fine.”
However, Streete went on to rape and kill her at Wigginton Park before lying to her family and police, claiming initially she was alive when they parted ways, changing his story at least four times between his arrest and trial, Stafford Crown Court was told.
Jailing Streete, Mr Justice Baker said: “She told Monique she would be safe at home, as you had offered to walk with her back to her house.
“Unfortunately nothing could have been further from truth.
“Because on the way back to her house I am satisfied you persuaded Keeley to divert to the rugby club, probably on the pretext of going for a smoke.
“However, what took place in Wigginton Park is you proceeded to rape Keeley Bunker in the course of which you murdered her by throttling her, in all probability by placing her in a choke-hold for sufficient period of time to kill her.”
He added the choke-hold would have been “minutes, rather than seconds”.
Jacob Hallam QC said during the trial: “We suggest the truth was he had taken Keeley’s life and he had sexually assaulted her – she, a young woman, who trusted him.”
He said it would take a “sustained effort” to “take Keeley Bunker’s life from her... to lose consciousness takes 10 to 15 seconds of sustained pressure around the neck”.
Streete claimed they had consensual sex and he “put my arms around her neck and accidentally killed her”, then lied to Bunker’s family, friends and police about what happened because he was “scared”.
He said at some point he had his “forearm around her neck” and realised she had died, before starting to “panic” and “pacing up and down”.
He did not consider calling the police and instead moved her body into the bushes, “put her in the pond” then took her jacket off “because you could see her in the brook and I was scared people would find her”.
“I didn’t know how to act and explain to other people how she died because I felt embarrassed in myself and very scared, to explain to police – everyone,” he told jurors.
Bunker was left face-down in the water, and Streete said he left the scene to go home, wash his clothes and go to sleep.
He returned “quite a few times” to cover her with branches, jurors were told, and was taken on a police ride along retracing Streete and Keeley’s last movements.
During that ride, police asked for his phone when told to by suspicious detectives and he was later arrested after her body was discovered.
Bunker was discovered by her uncle in Wigginton Park, Tamworth, during a search party the same day she went missing.
Following Streete’s conviction, Debbie Watkins, Bunker’s mother, said she had been “robbed” of her “precious and beautiful” daughter and Bunker’s sister said she was “one of the most vibrant, caring and beautiful souls this earth has ever seen”.
The judge said: “It is clear that not only was she loved by so many but that Keeley was one of the most kindest, caring of individuals.
“Moreover, not only has she lost the opportunity of fulfilling her life ambition, helping to educate young children, her family have lost the company of their beloved daughter, sister and niece.”
Detective Inspector Cheryl Hannan of Staffordshire Police said: “There’s Wesley Streete and Wesley Streete alone who is responsible for Keeley’s untimely death.
“Her friend, as Keeley did, trusted him to walk her home that night and there’s only Wesley to blame that she didn’t make it home.
“The lies that he told from the outset meant it was clear that he had something to do with her disappearance.”