A killer set his girlfriend’s Chesterfield home ablaze in a suspected attempt to cover his tracks after he had allegedly murdered her at the house.
Stafford Crown Court heard on Thursday, October 6, how Gary Andrew Tyson, 36, of Shirland Street, Chesterfield, allegedly stamped on Gemma Stevens’ head at her home on Catherine Street, Brampton, before returning to the blood-spattered property and torching it.
Tyson, who admitted killing Gemma Stevens on the grounds of diminished responsibility but is denying murder, also allegedly recruited his cousin Jamie Philip Bray, 26, of Kingsclere Walk, Grangewood, Chesterfield, to help destroy evidence at Gemma Stevens’ home and give the impression she had died in the fire.
Prosecuting barrister Michael Auty QC said: “The fire service quelled as much of the fire as they could to get inside and put the door through and then set about putting the fire out and on the settee in the living room was the body of Gemma Stevens and she was partly burned.
“The instinctive first reaction of the fire service was that it was the fire that had killed her but that was not the purpose of this fire.
“They realised she had sustained serious injuries and noticed wounds above her left eye and lower back and when the smoke died away they noticed obvious blood stains around the downstairs of the property and so a murder enquiry began.”
Pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton concluded 32-year-old, mother-of-three Gemma Stevens had been killed by an inflicted trauma to the head consistent with a blunt object and the prosecution claim this was from repeated stamping.
Dr Hamilton also revealed Gemma Stevens had suffered a stab wound to her back and there were some signs of attempted strangulation but they were inconsistent.
Mr Auty QC added: “She was dead before the fire was lit and the fire has neither caused or contributed to her death. To put it simply she was beaten to death.
“It’s not disputed that it was Tyson who killed her or that at the time he had intention to kill her or cause serious harm. But Tyson seeks to rely on a partial defence of diminished responsibility and we anticipate that the defence will call a doctor who will suggest that Tyson’s responsibility is diminished. They say his liability is reduced to the lesser offence of manslaughter.”
Gemma Stevens’ mother Janet Stevens stated her daughter’s drinking had increased and she had become withdrawn and suffered with anxiety attacks after she became involved with Tyson.
Mr Auty QC claimed Tyson had made a clumsy attempt to clean up blood at Gemma Stevens’ home after the killing on March 2 and argued that he must have struggled to move the body which is why he visited Jamie Bray just before midnight to get help.
Tyson and Mr Bray loitered at the old Robinson’s factory, according to Mr Auty QC, and were seen on Chester Street by CCTV and Mr Auty QC argued they were trying to find out if Gemma Stevens’ body had been discovered.
Neighbour Ibrar Khan stated he heard the moving of wheelie bins near the Catherine Street property about 1.30am, on March 3, as well as an alarm sounding and someone swearing.
A further neighbour, Deaton Josephs, also revealed he had heard repeated popping sounds and went outside to discover the house ablaze and he alerted the fire service about 2am, on March 3.
Tyson refused to comment to police after his arrest.
Mr Bray claimed during police interviews he had gone to Gemma Stevens’ property with Tyson to see if she was at home and if they could be let in but he later added that Tyson told him a body would be found.
Tyson pleaded not guilty to murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Mr Auty QC said that the defence’s case for Tyson rests on a “hitherto undiagnosed medical condition” that caused him to behave the way he did.
But Mr Auty QC argued that what Tyson had done had involved considered planning to destroy evidence and avoid detection.
He also explained Tyson has admitted committing arson as to being reckless as to whether life in other properties was endangered.
Mr Bray pleaded not guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at other properties and he also pleaded not guilty to assisting an offender.
The trial continues.