A man and woman who stored the body of their victim in a freezer have been found guilty of murder.
Jurors in the six-week case at Newcastle Crown Court returned guilty verdicts for Sharon Swinhoe, 44, and Joseph Collins, 54, yesterday afternoon for killing retired local government worker Peter McMahon. They are due to be sentenced today.
During the trial, the court heard how the pair carried his body in a suitcase through a block of flats in Elswick, Newcastle, before storing it in a chest freezer at Collins’ house.
Ronnie Douglas, 77, of West Acres, Blaydon, was cleared of murder and manslaughter. However, he will also be sentenced today following an earlier guilty plea of perverting the course of justice to conceal a body.
The disfigured body of the 68-year-old grandfather was discovered by police in the flat of Collins at The Sycamores in December 2012.
Mr McMahon was last seen six weeks earlier getting a taxi to Swinhoe’s house at Crawford Terrace, Walker.
The prosecution said she treated him as a ‘sugar daddy’ and his murder had been motivated by financial gain.
The court heard how he had bought her an expensive engagement ring and how in the weeks following his death she took £2,000 from his account.
A statement released by Mr McMahon’s sons Andrew, 39, and Steven, 36, after the verdicts, said: “We still can’t believe that anybody could be so cruel, calculated and cold hearted against our Dad.
“His generosity and good nature were taken advantage of, and he did not deserve for his life to be cut short in this way. Rest in peace Dad.”
Police said both Collins and Swinhoe had repeatedly attempted to damage Mr McMahon’s reputation during their evidence, which included an allegation made by Swinhoe that he had locked her up for three days and raped her.
DCI Paul Young, who led the investigation into the murder, said: “We welcome the verdicts.
“They targeted him for financial gain and he was murdered in a brutal fashion, and particularly aggravating was the fact that his body was treated in such a way after death.
“Throughout the trial, the family have behaved in a thoroughly decent manner and they have been upset.
“I hope the verdicts give them some sort of closure.”
Mr Justice Globe, presiding over the case at Newcastle Crown Court, thanked jurors for the length of time they had given to the trial, which he said had gone on far longer than the court expected.
He said they would be exempt from having to sit on a jury again due to the effect this case may have had on them.