EastEnders' Gemma McCluskie murder: Brother guilty

Tony McCluskie Tony McCluskie claimed his sister had gone missing

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The brother of former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie has been found guilty of her murder and told he will serve at least 20 years in jail.

Tony McCluskie, 36, of Shoreditch, east London, had admitted manslaughter at the Old Bailey but denied her murder.

Miss McCluskie's torso was found in Regent's Canal, Hackney, last March. Other body parts were found later.

The 29-year-old actress played Kerry Skinner, Ethel Skinner's great-niece, in the BBC soap in 2000 and 2001.

Hacked into pieces

McCluskie was found guilty by an 11-1 majority and given a life sentence.

Miss McCluskie's mutilated body was found floating in the canal in east London on 6 March last year.

Gemma McCluskie Gemma McCluskie's torso was found in Regent's Canal last March

She was killed by being hit over the head at least twice and her body was hacked into six pieces using a cleaver and a knife.

McCluskie, a window cleaner and skunk cannabis smoker, claimed to have lost control after a tirade of abuse from his sister.

He said the last thing he remembered was her coming at him with a knife.

But the prosecution said he killed his sister after she lost patience with him and asked him to leave the flat in Pelter Street, Shoreditch, where they lived.

The final straw came when McCluskie left taps running and a sink overflowed in March last year, the jury heard.

The Old Bailey heard that on 2 March McCluskie lugged a heavy suitcase to a local cab firm and was seen taking it towards the canal.

When the cab driver asked what was in his bag the defendant said it was a sound system.

'Warm-hearted'

Miss McCluskie's torso was found a week later when the case snapped open, and her limbs were found in plastic bags a week later.

But her head was not found until six months later when it too was discovered in the water.

Her former co-stars Natalie Cassidy and Brooke Kinsella, had appealed for help on Twitter to find her.

Gemma's father Anthony McCluskie said she had a ''huge personality and zest for life''

Ms Kinsella tweeted: "Thinking of you Gemma. I am so so sorry. Despair of the world we live in sometimes. RIP darling xxx".

Mr Justice Fulford told McCluskie: "I have no doubt that you killed your sister because she was furious with you for letting a sink overflow in the bathroom.

"I unhesitatingly reject your account that she had used bad language towards you or that she had belittled you in the past.

"She was a warm-hearted woman who was loved by a great many people."

He said McCluskie had set about "in a cold-blooded way" to conceal what he had done.

"Your hope must have been that she would never be found," the judge added.

'Zest for life'

Speaking outside the court, Anthony McCluskie, the siblings' father, said it had been an "extremely traumatic" time for the family and his daughter's friends.

Gemma McCluskie pictured in 2001 The actress appeared in the BBC One soap in 2001

He said his daughter was known as Gem Star or Little Gem to some of her friends.

"Small in stature, she was huge in personality with a zest for life," he said.

He said his daughter was "very much loved" and "greatly missed".

"Good night and God bless Gemma," he said.

"We all miss you and love you."

Gemma McCluskie appeared in more than 30 episodes of EastEnders as Kerry Skinner, the great-niece of long-term character Ethel Skinner.

Kerry was a close friend of Zoe Slater and dated Robbie Jackson, who proposed to her. The character left Albert Square when her holiday fling with another boy was revealed.

Most recently Miss McCluskie had worked in two pubs in Shoreditch.

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