Nicola Lethbridge and Zoe Rider jailed for life over 'brutal' murder of Stephen Koszyczarski

[L-R] Zoe Rider and Nicola Lethbridge have been found guilty of robbery and murder
-Credit: (Image: South Yorkshire Police)

Nicola Lethbridge and Zoe Rider have been told they will spend 26 years behind bars for the brutal murder of their vulnerable neighbour Stephen Koszyczarski.

The sick duo targeted Stephen and attacked him at his home in Fraser Drive, Sheffield, accusing him of being a paedophile, taunting and mutilating him before inflicting a fatal head injury. Lethbridge, 45, and Rider, 36, filmed some of the horrific attack.

As they appeared in the dock at Sheffield Crown Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Andrew O'Byrne read out a statement from Stephen's former partner and friend of 38 years, Mary Jones.

Read more: Zoe Rider and Nicola Lethbridge live court sentencing updates for murder of Stephen Koszyczarski

She said: "I keep expecting him to come for a chat then I remember he can't. He's had his life taken from him. It's painful to watch the video taken of him - that was not Stephen. He was not a n****. Stephen was kind and gentle.

"The impact it has had on me in my own home is unbearable. It has made me nervous and paranoid every time I hear noises. I have problems going to sleep...It's heartbreaking I won't see him again. I cry most days and nights. He was a special man. He would help anyone and had a heart of gold. Why have they murdered him when he should still be alive, enjoying his life? Since he was taken from me I look at his photograph - he's smiling in that photo.

"I will love Stephen and miss him from the rest of my life." The court heard both Rider and Lethbridge had previous convictions on their records. Rider - who sported Rosary beads around her neck- was the subject of a suspended sentence at the time of Stephen's murder.

Lethbridge sobbed as her barrister James Hill KC presented her mitigation to the court. He said she would not have committed the offences if left to her own devices. He said: "I don't mean to diminish the seriousness of the robbery, but it may have been incidental in the course of the murder and it is for that reason I contend for the appalling conduct and the robbery as aggravating factors."

Mr Hill said there was a lack of premeditation and added: "I appreciate Ms Lethbridge is a mature woman, but you heard something of her terrible background and I invite your honour to consider that that background may have left her more vulnerable to the ravages of alcohol and drug addiction, and that in turn may have left her more vulnerable to being led by somebody, on the face of it at least, who may have been criminally inclined.

"It is my submission that left to her own devices, Ms Lethbridge would not have committed these offences."

John Ryder KC, for Rider, said she had suffered physical abuse as a child and had been coerced into stealing from a young age to help fund her mother's addiction to drugs. He said: "She was unwanted, unloved, uncared for...She was introduced to cannabis by her mother at age 12 and within that home environment, quickly moved on to class A drugs...Our central submission essentially are that it was all but inevitable that her entire life would be categorised by features of violence and addiction and we ask your honour to take account of that...

"The violence featured in her own life as an adult is from men who brutalised her in the same way her parents did."

As she sentenced Rider and Lethbridge, Her Honour Judge Sarah Wright said Stephen had a number of health issues and no information was uncovered during the police investigation that suggested he had any connection with any paedophile interest or activity.

Stephen Mark Koszyczarski
Zoe Rider was one of the women who sadistically tortured Stephen Koszyczarski

She said: "In the weeks before his death, Stephen changed. He was uncharacteristically short of money, unkempt and wary and he was visibly troubled and scared. Having heard evidence, I have no doubt you Zoe Rider targeted him as someone you could exploit and had gone on to do so and you Nicola Lethbridge indulged in loud and intimidating behaviour, keeping Stephen awake and scared.

"On 9th August you were in drink and probably drugs and find you went into his flat together in order to threaten, attack and rob him, no doubt to finance further drug taking. For whatever reason, you accused Stephen of being a paedophile. You invaded his home, intent on helping yourselves to his property by threatening and using violence and set about him in the most brutal manner and launched a vicious and joint attack on him.

"You threatened to mutilate him and shouted obscenities on him. You failed to listen to his denials or to offer him any compassion when he was clearly injured. The purpose of your attack was to steal from him and to humiliate, terrify and hurt him. You left him clearly injured and bleeding, with 22 separate injuries on his face and body, including a broken nose, and a bleed to the brain that proved fatal.

"While you may not have intended to kill Stephen, you certainly intended to cause him really serious harm, distress and terrify him. You helped yourself to his property, including jewellery recovered. I have no doubt you intended to sell this jewellery for drugs. This is clearly a murder for gain."

She made Lethbridge and Rider subjects of life sentences and told them they must serve 26 years behind bars before going before the Parole Board who will determine if they are safe to be released.

Stephen lived in a block of flats in Fraser Drive
Stephen Mark Koszyczarski -Credit:South Yorkshire Police