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Man who killed woman and set fire to her body jailed for minimum of 21 years

Ellia Arathoon Photo: Cheshire Police

A man who brutally murdered a woman before putting her body into a suitcase and setting fire to it has been jailed for a minimum of 21 years.

Craig Procter, 40, pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial to killing 29-year-old Ellia Arathoon, whose remains were discovered next to the M53 in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, last November.

Liverpool Crown Court heard bloodstains and glass fragments were found at Procter's home, where Miss Arathoon had been staying while "sofa surfing", and the burnt remains of the mother-of-one's body were discovered in a nearby wood.

Sentencing Procter on Tuesday, Recorder of Liverpool Judge Clement Goldstone QC said:

You intentionally, deliberately and brutally killed a defenceless and blameless woman and thereafter created a situation which prevented her family from identifying her and made their grieving process that much more difficult and hard to bear.

"By your mindless violence you have deprived her son of a loving mother and left him in a state of total confusion and incomprehension as to why you should have killed his mum."

– Judge Clement Goldstone QC

Richard Pratt QC, prosecuting, said Miss Arathoon and Procter were friends with a shared interest in crack cocaine.

The pair had spent the night of October 28 at a party at a friend's house where they took drugs and returned to Procter's house in the early hours of October 29.

Just after 10pm on October 29 Procter arrived at the house of his ex-partner Catherine Powell and told her: "We've killed her, just one hit. I hit her with the glass."

CCTV footage from the early hours of October 30 showed Procter, wearing a high visibility jacket, carrying a suitcase down steps towards a canal towpath near his home on Shephard Close in Ellesmere Port.

Later that morning he met Miss Powell at Butterfly Woods, near the towpath.

Mr Pratt said:

He suddenly said, during what she thought was a normal conversation, 'that is where she is', and pointed to the woods."

Miss Powell later told the defendant's mother, Jane Procter, what he had said, and they discussed calling the police but were unsure whether to believe him.

But on October 31 Procter spoke to Miss Powell again and told her "I can't believe no one's seen it. I spotted it straightaway. It's Ellia's body, you can see it, I'm going to have to move it."

– Mr Pratt

Miss Powell and Ms Procter then contacted police.

The court heard the body, found by police on November 3, had been put in the suitcase and set on fire before being moved to a different location, up a steep embankment, and concealed with carpet and twigs.

A post-mortem found Miss Arathoon had bruising to her face caused by blunt force trauma but the condition of the body meant it was not possible to determine her exact cause of death or whether she was still alive when placed in the suitcase.

Procter initially blamed his lodger for the murder, before telling police he had witnessed an unidentified man carrying out the killing.

Evidence showed he had had sex with Miss Arathoon before her death, although the defendant said the sex was consensual.

The court heard Miss Arathoon had previously told friends Procter had asked her to make love to him, but she had rejected his advances and told him she "did not like him like that".

In a statement, Miss Arathoon's mother Elaina Hampson said:

Ellia was beautiful, vivacious, strong-willed, friendly, funny and loving person. She would light up the room with her smile which made her so popular with everyone."

The court heard Procter, who wore a white T-shirt and sat slouched in his chair throughout the hearing, had previous convictions for domestic violence.

– Elaina Hampson

Anthony Metzer QC, defending, said:

The defendant will not be able to give comfort to the family and friends, many friends, to be able to say more about the circumstances of how this offence was committed. He has simply no recollection."

– Anthony Metzer QC

But Judge Goldstone said he doubted that claim.

He said:

From your conduct after the killing and your efforts to set up another unidentified man I have no doubt that you did know and will take with you to your grave precisely what you did and why."

– Judge Goldstone