Sharon Swinhoe and accomplices jailed over murder of her lover Peter McMahon

Sharon Swinhoe, 44, plundered the bank account of retired civil servant Peter McMahon, 68 – with whom she had been having a relationship – after he was battered to death

Joseph Collins and Sharon Swinhoe
Joseph Collins and Sharon Swinhoe

A woman who murdered a pensioner and hid his body in a freezer was jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.

Sharon Swinhoe, 44, plundered the bank account of retired civil servant Peter McMahon, 68 – with whom she had been having a relationship – after he was battered to death.

With the help of her some-time lover Joseph Collins, 54, Mr McMahon’s body was wheeled in a suitcase last November to the block of flats where Collins lived in Elswick, Newcastle, and stored in a freezer in his bedroom.

During the sustained attack at her home in Crawford Terrace, Walker, Swinhoe gouged Mr McMahon’s eyes with her finger nails which caused fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

Yesterday Mr Justice Globe jailed Collins for 20 years with an eight-year concurrent sentence for perverting the course of justice by hiding a body.

Swinhoe was given a 10-year sentence for concealing the body, which will also run at the same time as her jail term for murder.

Both Swinhoe and Collins denied the murder but were convicted following a six-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Another of Swinhoe’s previous boyfriends, Ronald Douglas, 77, from Blaydon, Gateshead, helped them to move the body in his car.

He was cleared of murder and manslaughter but jailed for four years for perverting the course of justice and will serve two years on licence.

During the trial, twice-married Mr McMahon was described as being besotted with Swinhoe, who was 24 years younger.

He would buy her presents and she was described by the prosecution as seeing Mr McMahon as a sugar daddy.

Prior to his body being discovered in the second-hand chest freezer, Mr McMahon’s son phoned from New Zealand to tell his father he had become a grandfather. Swinhoe answered the call and said he could not come to the phone because he was sleeping – despite it being early evening.

Mr Justice Globe said animal-lover Swinhoe, who had no previous convictions, showed no remorse.

“You appear to care more about the rats you kept as pets than the man who loved you and asked to marry you and bought you an £1,100 engagement ring,” he said. David Jeremy QC, defending Collins, said his client’s existence ‘consisted of little more than orbiting the life of Sharon Swinhoe’.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Young said: “Peter McMahon was a decent, hard-working man. Swinhoe and Collins targeted him for financial gain, preying on his generosity then plundering his bank accounts.”

A statement released by Mr McMahon’s sons Andrew, 39, and Steven, 36, said: “It is particularly tragic that he not only had his life taken from him, but that these people showed utter disrespect for it afterwards.

“He was also denied the chance to learn he had become a grandfather which he had always dearly wanted.”

More than �2,600 found in her flat after the murder must be repaid to the family, the judge ordered.

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