Brother faces 20 years in prison after murder of EastEnders star
Published 31/01/2013 | 05:00
The brother of former East-Enders actress Gemma McCluskie has been jailed for life for her murder.
Tony McCluskie (36) showed no emotion as he was told at the Old Bailey that he would serve a minimum term of 20 years.
The judge said McCluskie had done everything he could to discredit his "hugely popular" sister's character during the trial.
And he rejected claims by the skunk cannabis addict that she had pushed him over the edge by being mean to him.
McCluskie was found guilty of murder by an 11-1 majority. He had admitted manslaughter.
Ms McCluskie's dismembered body was found floating in the Regent's Canal in east London in March last year. Her head was found in the water six months later.
The 29-year-old found fame in the BBC soap in 2001 when she played Ethel Skinner's niece.
The verdict was greeted with gasps by members of the family.
After the verdict, Tony McCluskie Senior said he would not desert his son.
He said: "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."
The court was told how McCluskie lugged a heavy suitcase to a local cab firm and was last seen taking it towards the canal.
McCluskie joined friends who launched extensive searches across east London to find her.
Ms McCluskie's friend Nicole McLaren said she hugged McCluskie because she felt sorry for him as they searched for her.But, said Crispin Aylett, prosecuting, McCluskie sent police on a wild goose chase after the actress was reported missing.
Mr Aylett said: "For some time, there had been tension between Ms McCluskie and her brother.
"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'."
Mr Aylett said the next day McCluskie sent his sister a text, pretending she was still alive, and ending "Love ya xx".
McCluskie 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.
But scientists found blood in the bathroom and a blood-stained knife in the kitchen.