A man has been jailed for life after killing his partner with a baseball bat after she returned home from visiting her baby's grave.
James Campbell, 33, from the Lemington area of Newcastle, was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend of 10 years Colette Myers.
He had denied the charges but was found guilty by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday 16 October.
On Friday 20 October, he was told he must serve at least 18 years of a life sentence behind bars.
Campbell subjected Ms Myers to "regular if not continuous violence" during their relationship, the judge said, and had threatened to dig up the grave of her baby who died of cot death.
The court heard he attacked her with a weapon she referred to as "Benny the bat", causing an injury usually seen when someone falls from a multi-storey building or is hit by a car.
Jurors were told how on the day before her death last April, 33-year-old Ms Myers had been to visit the grave of her nine-week-old daughter, who died in 2007. After going out with a friend, she returned to the flat she shared with Campbell at 10:30pm.
Campbell claimed the following morning, he found her dead in bed.
However, following a post mortem, it was found she died of a head injury.
Sentencing, Mrs Justice Foster said: "From the description of her shocked and heartbroken friends, it's clear that in spite of having had a difficult life, Colette had been a woman capable of great joy and laughter and kindness and generosity.
"In the words of her sister, she would help anyone out even if it meant she would herself go without.
"While a sentence of the court never compensates for human loss, it's important to remember the lifelong impact for many when a young life is ended in this way."
Mrs Justice Foster told Campbell: "You inflicted those traumatic injuries to her in spite of your denials of causing the injuries. You sought to put the blame on Colette and suggested she was so far gone in drink she had some kind of accident and must have tripped on the ladders on the stairs.
"You also sought to deceive investigators by rearranging the evidence in the house. What you said changed over time, you told a series of lies about the details to try to put the police off the scent.
"You gave an elaborate explanation about the presence of the baseball bat at the end of the bed. I'm sure you did hit her with that baseball bat."
The judge also said she was "sure" Ms Myers' body had been moved to make it look as if she had died in her sleep.
She added: "Colette feared it would come to this. You intended to use her as the butt of your drunken fury."
In mitigation, Mark McKone KC, said Campbell had "no intention" to kill Ms Myers.
Earlier this week, Colette’s family paid special tribute to her with a statement which read: “Colette was a much-loved sister, auntie, mother and friend. She was the life and soul of the party who would help anyone out, even if it meant she would go without.
“Colette had so much to live for, yet she was only 33-years-old when she was brutally murdered by her live-in partner of 10 years.
“Colette was the victim of domestic abuse, and her death could have been prevented if she had sought help. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you may be feeling isolated, ashamed and alone. Please know you are not alone, and you are not to blame. Above all, you do not have to suffer in silence – please seek help.”
Senior investigating officer detective chief inspector Louise Jenkins of Northumbria Police said after the sentencing: "I hope knowing Campbell is spending a long time behind bars helps Colette's family to take their first steps towards closure.
"I would like to praise the courage and dignity they've shown during these proceedings. I know it was not easy for them to hear details of Campbell's abusive and violent behaviour towards Colette, which tragically ended with her losing her life."
Anyone who wants to report abuse is encouraged to get in touch with police.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, support and advice is available here:
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