The broken-hearted mother of murder victim Gemma Stevens who was beaten to death at her Chesterfield home has told how her family will never be the same again.
Stafford Crown Court heard how Gary Tyson, 36, of Shirland Street, Chesterfield, beat the mother-of-three to death at her home on Catherine Street, Brampton, before torching the blood-spattered property.
Tyson denied murdering his girlfriend on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to mental illness - admitting manslaughter and arson - but a jury found him guilty of murder on Friday after a six-day trial.
The 32-year-old victim’s mother Janet Stevens stated: “I do not think there are words for the pain and heartache we are going through. Whatever I say will not bring my daughter back and return a mother to her children. Guilt is what I am feeling. Why didn’t I see any signs?”
She added: “It’s a parent’s job to look after their children which I didn’t and I feel as long as I live I don’t think I will forgive myself for not being there for her.
“I can honestly say that I don’t think any of us will feel the same again.”
Jealous Tyson killed his partner on March 2 and set fire to her home on March 3 after his unfounded suspicions that she had been having sex with a drug dealer led to a row.
Pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton confirmed mother-of-three Gemma Stevens had been killed by an inflicted trauma to the head consistent with a blunt object and the prosecution argued this was from repeated stamping with eleven wounds. Dr Hamilton revealed Gemma had suffered other injuries including a stab wound to her back with signs of possible attempted strangulation.
Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Bickle told the trial Tyson is an alcoholic and has been using drugs and suffering with depression, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks.
Dr Bickle said Tyson suspected Gemma Stevens was having sex with a crack-cocaine dealer.
Tyson admitted killing the mother-of-three and committing arson. He denied murder due to mental illness and amnesia but the jury found him guilty.
Prosecuting barrister Michael Auty QC revealed how acquaintance David Hicklin stated he had noticed Tyson’s trainers and jeans stained with blood in the afternoon after the murder on March 2 and Tyson told him he had stabbed someone.
Carol Smith, grandparent to Gemma Stevens’ children, made repeated unanswered calls to Gemma and both she and Janet Stevens made unanswered calls to Tyson.
The court heard how Tyson later visited his cousin Jamie Bray, 26, of Kingsclere Walk, Grangewood, Chesterfield, and just before midnight on March 2 and they had walked the streets drinking alcohol before Tyson returned to Gemma Stevens’ home and set it on fire in the early hours of March 3.
Mr Bray was found not guilty of arson and not guilty of assisting an offender and was freed.
He said he had simply thought they had gone out walking and drinking and he had believed Tyson had visited Gemma’s home to see if she was in.
He added that when Tyson told him a body would be found he thought he was joking.
Prosecuting barrister Michael Auty QC said neighbour Deaton Josephs alerted the fire service about 2am, on March 3, and they found Gemma’s body with blood stains at the property.
High Court Judge Sir Kenneth Parker was appalled by the brutality of the murder and the risk posed by the arson to other neighbours.
He highlighted how two months before the murder Janet Stevens noticed injuries to Gemma’s face and ribs and he was satisfied these had been caused by Tyson.
The court heard how days before Gemma Stevens’ death a couple from Shirland Street found her outside Tyson’s home and she stated that Tyson had tried to strangle her but she refused help.
Judge Parker sentenced Tyson to life imprisonment and he will not be considered for parole and release until he has served 24 years.
He described the murderer as a violent, manipulative bully after he beat Gemma Stevens to death and set fire to her home.
Judge Parker told him: “From an early age you have been a violent and aggressive and manipulative individual particularly when drinking alcohol.”
He added: “You are a bully towards the weaker and a coward when it comes to facing up to what you did.”
Judge Parker continued: “The sheer brutality of this killing of a woman in her own home was an act of savagery. The victim didn’t probably die immediately but was left to die over some hours.”
The judge praised Derbyshire Constabulary who put together an impressive body of evidence with a timeline prior to and after the murder including witness accounts, phone calls and CCTV evidence showing Tyson’s movements between the killing and the arson attack.
He said: “The police have been remarkably efficient in the gathering of evidence and in the conduct of their investigation and I pay tribute to the work they have done.”