A man convicted of murdering his former girlfriend at her home in Norwich has today been jailed for a minimum of 24 years.
27-year-old Joe Storey had launched a brutal and sustained attack on Kerri McAuley after a night out in the city in January.
Judge Stephen Holt described it as one of the worst cases of domestic violence to come before the courts. He said he thought it could be considerably longer than 24 years before he's eligible for parole.
At the beginning of his two week trial, Storey pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murdering 32-year-old Kerri. It took the jury took 45 minutes to unanimously find him guilty.
Some of the jury members were in court today to hear that Storey had been jailed in the past for attacks on partners and on four occasions had breached restraining orders. One of them was imposed in October last year, preventing him from contacting Kerri.
He was expected to be sentenced on Friday but his failure to arrive at Norwich Crown Court caused huge frustration for Judge Stephen Holt who said it was yet another instance of Storey manipulating the court process. During the trial he had claimed to be ill.
There was also public criticism of Bedford prison where Storey was being held. The court was told prison staff had believed the killer when he told them he was not required in court for the sentencing. Prosecuting barrister Simon Spence QC said: "It beggared belief that a prison took the word of a convicted murderer rather than check with the court."
The upshot was that Judge Holt ordered the prison to make sure he attended court today, manhandling him onto the prison van if necessary.
Kerri was found dead at her home in Norwich's Southalls Way on January 8th this year. The couple had had an on-off relationship, with Storey having a history of inflicting mental and physical abuse on her. Kerri had two young boys from a previous relationship.
Detective Chief Inspector Marie James, from the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Major investigation Team, who led the enquiry said: "This was a chilling, shockingly violent crime; Kerri was subjected to a sustained brutal attack in her own home and the extreme level of violence used has disturbed even the most experienced of detectives who have worked on the case.
"Storey has shown absolutely no remorse at any stage of the investigation and has prolonged the agony for Kerri’s family who have had to endure a trial and listen to evidence, some of which has been extremely distressing for them to hear."
Kerri’s mum, Lesley McAuley, said via a victim statement read to the court: "I feel such hatred for him, what he has done to our lives. What kind of man could do that?"
She spoke of discovering her bloodstained daughter lying on the floor of her flat.
"I cant imagine the fear my daughter must have suffered that day at the hands of that monster.
"Kerri was full of such a love of life; a sociable, fun loving girl with a heart of gold who was a loyal friend and who touched the lives of so many people. She had so many different groups of friends and I draw strength from the knowledge that Kerri’s memory lives on with them, and from the support that they have given in the days, weeks and months following Kerri’s murder. This has meant a lot to me and my family.
"Above everything else, Kerri worshiped her children and lived for them. Everything she ever did was to give her sons a good and happy life and I take comfort from seeing them now, knowing how proud she would be of the young men that they are to become – a shining testament to the mother that she was to them.
"Though this comfort is bittersweet, it hurts me deeply to know that never again will Kerri and I watch together as they perform in school plays. She will never get to be proud of their successes nor be there to cuddle them when they are sad. It is such a waste of a beautiful soul so cruelly and heartlessly taken.
"Any sentence that is passed will never be enough, the years simply don’t matter. It will never make up for what he has so brutally and cruelly taken from us. Kerri will never be forgotten. She will be forever loved.”
DCI James added: "This case has shown how domestic abuse can quickly turn from violent and frightening to fatal. Norfolk Police will always take any report of domestic abuse seriously and we work closely with many other agencies and organisations to tackle it. I hope this outcome gives victims the courage and confidence to seek help at the earliest opportunity in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”
- Domestic violence: What help is available?
Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Online or digital abuse