Torture murder trial - victim's former partner jailed for at least 32 years

22/01/2010

The killers of a County Durham man tortured to death in his own home have today been found guilty of his murder.

Andrew Gardner, 33, was subjected to prolonged violence and humiliation over several weeks, including being punched, kicked, jumped and stamped on, whipped, burned and deprived of food.

Tortured, Andrew GardnerHis former partner Claire Nicholls, who was also mother to his young child, her brother Simon Nicholls and Steven Martin all denied murder.

Their trial at Teesside Crown Court heard how they all took turns to abuse Claire NichollsAndrew, leaving him with a total of 100 separate injuries at the time of his death.

Claire was jailed for a minimum of 32 years, while her brother was sentenced to serve at least 25 years behind bars. Martin is yet to be sentenced.

Following today's verdict, CPS Durham Crown Advocate Rachel Masters who prosecuted the case said: "Andrew Gardner suffered a painful and torturous death. The level of violence was extreme and his body could only put up with so much. These were not strangers, but people he knew and trusted, including the mother of his child, taking sadistic gratification from inflicting pain and suffering. They spurred one another on over a number of weeks, until ultimately they took Andrew's life.

"Some of violence took place in front of the children in the house, who witnessed Andrew's great suffering. One little boy told the trial that he saw Claire jump on Andrew, landing on his chest with her knees. That's a memory no child should have to live with.

"This has been a difficult and tragic case and I pay tribute to our prosecution team who have worked extremely hard to secure todays conviction."