Sybil Sibthorpe death: Lee Grainger jailed for killing

Sybil Sibthorpe
Image caption Sybil Sibthorpe was found next to her shopping trolley filled with her tools

A man who beat his 80-year-old former landlady to death after losing his tenancy has been jailed for life.

The body of Sybil Sibthorpe was found in the yard of one of her properties in Haughton Road, Darlington, on 8 May.

Lee Grainger, of Elmfield Street, had denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The 41-year-old, who was brain damaged in a motorbike accident, must serve at least 12 and a half years.

The court heard how Mrs Sibthorpe was "battered to death" as she worked on one of her houses.

A post-mortem examination showed she had died of head injuries.

An earlier hearing was told that Grainger, a former tenant of Mrs Sibthorpe, had suffered "substantial" head injuries in an accident years ago which had impaired his judgement.

He had been "brooding" for weeks about losing a tenancy before the killing, the hearing was told.

'Empty without her'

Image caption Lee Grainger's judgement was impaired because of brain damage suffered in a crash, the court heard

Mrs Sibthorpe's body was found next to her shopping trolley filled with her work tools.

A tribute was released on behalf of the victim's husband William, 77, after sentencing.

"Our cheerful, home is now cold, soulless, empty and silent without her," he said.

"No-one will ever understand the pain that has been inflicted on our family when she was taken away from us in the most cruel, evil and scary way.

"She was a peaceful, hardworking and very talented lady who we all miss very much."

Det Ch Insp Steve Chapman, of Durham Police, said: "I hope this sentencing will bring some closure to Sybil's family who have been through a devastating and harrowing experience."

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