Man jailed after hiding his girlfriend's body in airing cupboard for over a year
A man who hid the body of his dead girlfriend in the airing cupboard of their flat for more than a year has been jailed for four years and four months.
Andrew Reade, 43, wrapped the body of Vicky Cherry, 44, in a duvet and plastic sheeting after her death in October 2015 and then concealed it at their address in Bolton, Greater Manchester, by placing other items on top.
The corpse remained secret until police made the grim discovery when they searched the first-floor flat in Toronto Street in January this year after her family filed a missing person report three months earlier.
Miss Cherry's cause of death could not be ascertained because of the heavy decomposition but a pathologist concluded she may have died as a result of strangulation as injuries to her neck were detected.
When arrested on suspicion of murder, Reade claimed he panicked after he woke to find his girlfriend dead after they had previously taken a cocktail of illicit drugs.
Sentencing him at Bolton Crown Court, Judge Timothy Clayson said the defendant could not be held responsible for the death but his behaviour that followed was "inexcusable".
Reade went on "a mission of deceit" as he told lie after lie to Miss Cherry's family and also to police officers who twice visited the flat in November 2016.
He told them that Miss Cherry had left him to live in Blackburn with another man, the court heard.
Reade gave different accounts to others in the weeks after Miss Cherry's death when he told a mutual friend she was in hospital and falsely claimed to a pharmacist that she had moved in with her mother and even secured a job at a care home.
The defendant also cashed in employment benefits, totalling up to £1,000, sent to Miss Cherry in the three months after her death.
Judge Clayson told him that his conduct had prolonged her family's ordeal.
He said: "Your behaviour towards the body of Vicky Cherry and her family was callous, calculated and above all selfish."
Reade pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to preventing a lawful and decent burial and also doing acts intended to pervert the course of justice.
Michael Maher, prosecuting, said the pair had been in a relationship since 2014 and it was "palpably clear" that the mother-of-three, originally from Fulwood, Lancashire, had "wrestled demons" with a history of drug abuse, depression and epilepsy.
She had been estranged from her family until the end of 2014 when contact was re-established and she kept in regular touch with her daughter Robyn, 25, until it came to an abrupt end in October 2015.
Reade later texted Miss Cherry's daughter that she had moved out to Blackburn, which left her with "deep-seated anger" as it appeared she had acted without telling her, the court was told.
She said she was "livid" with her mother but eventually became suspicious as time went on.
In a victim personal statement to the court, Miss Cherry's daughter said she and her mother had moved on from the past and she was looking forward to introducing her to her grandchildren.
She went on: "How can someone put you through 15 months of not knowing where she was? Lying to us and hiding her body from everyone.
"We may never know how she died. The way she was found we will never fully recover from the images and thoughts of how she was found.
"Reade has held her body in a cupboard with things on top of her like she was a piece of rubbish.
"I will never forgive Reade. Reade himself is the only person who truly knows what happened to my mother. We will be forever tormented by this."
Nick Ross, defending, said his client, a long-standing user of Class A drugs, had exercised "very poor judgment" after grief and panic had set in following Miss Cherry's death.
He said: "He can only think that matters spiralled out of control as to how he should manage with the passing of Miss Cherry. He found himself on a treadmill he could not get off.
"He says his number one apology is the wish to apologise to the family. He very much wishes that he reported the death properly and in a timely fashion, and he wishes he could turn the clock back."
Judge Clayson rejected Reade's claims in prison that he had tried to commit suicide as "an attempt by you to attract sympathy" and he also did not accept his feelings of remorse or that he would "deeply miss" Miss Cherry were genuine.
Following sentencing, Miss Cherry's family said: "We as a family are heartbroken. No matter what sentence Reade would have been given it will never bring Vicky back.
"He stopped us for 18 months being able to have her funeral from the day she died.
"No one was able to say goodbye to her properly as we couldn't view her body and had to say goodbye to a coffin because she decomposed so much.
"They couldn't even give us a lock of hair."
Detective Chief Inspector Terry Crompton of Greater Manchester Police said: "Reade's deliberately deceptive and misleading actions seriously obstructed the investigation into how Victoria died and cost us valuable opportunities to investigate.
"The strength and courage her family has shown throughout the investigation and the time in court is truly commendable."