KILLER Stephen Streener has been jailed for at least 18 years for the murder of Ponteland mum Jacqueline Grant.
The 49-year-old was sentenced yesterday shortly after a jury at Newcastle Crown Court returned a unanimous guilty verdict.
Streener punched his girlfriend in the head before strangling her to death with a cord and setting fire to the bed she was in at his home in November.
The trial heard that he had been in a relationship with Mrs Grant for a few months before she died after they met at Brough Park.
Although they formed an intense relationship quickly, Mrs Grant never told her family that she was in a new relationship, and when she left the family home, they thought she was living with a friend from work.
In fact she had moved in to Streener’s home in Meadowbank Drive, Choppington, but Mrs Grant, who was still married, wanted to keep the affair secret.
She told friends her marriage had gone stale, but she did still care for her husband and didn’t want to hurt him, or their son.
Streener denied murder, but after a few hours of deliberation the jury delivered a unanimous verdict of guilty.
Judge Paul Sloan said: “While it’s quite clear that a strong bond developed between you both, and that Mrs Grant was telling you that she felt her future lay with you, I’m satisfied on the evidence that I have heard that in fact she was torn, on the one hand staying with you, and on the other returning to her husband and son who she still clearly loved.”
The judge said Streener forced the issue by using her phone to send a text to her husband, informing him that Mrs Grant was leaving him.
He added: “Precisely what happened when you returned home having sent that text, only you know.
“But it may well be the case that you informed Mrs Grant that you sent that text, causing her distress and leading to confrontation between you.”
Judge Sloan said there was a clear degree of pre-meditation as Streener obtained a piece of cord and created a ligature with it.
He said Streener took Mrs Grant by surprise and abused the trust she had in him.
Streener set fire to two areas of the bedding in an attempt to cover what had happened.
And Judge Sloan labelled him a coward for fabricating a tale that Mrs Grant’s family conspired to kill her after she told them she was leaving.
He told Streener that breaching his position of trust, using a ligature and setting the fire in order to destroy evidence were all aggravating factors.
“In my judgement, there are no real mitigating factors in this case,” he said.
Streener was sentenced to life in prison, and ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years before being considered for release.
The court heard that the defendant had a number of previous convictions, including arson, assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm, including spending four years in prison in 1984 for GBH with intent when he punched and kicked the complainant to the head and face.
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Following the trial, a statement from Jacqueline Grant’s family was released.
It read: “The circumstances of Jacqueline’s murder were horrific. She died at the hands of a brutal monster.
“The moments leading up to her death will continue to haunt us for the rest of our lives and we hope this monster is never released.
“Jacqueline was a bubbly, kind, trusting and caring person who would help anybody in any way she could. She was an adored wife and soul mate to Bob, a mother and best friend to Robert, and an adored daughter and sister. She was a bubbly, kind sister-in-law and aunt, and a kind caring friend to many. All of her family and friends miss her dreadfully.
“We would like to relay our thanks for all the support given to us by Northumbria Police, especially DCI Ian Bentham, DS Peter Morgan and the team. Also for the support from our family liaison officers DC Natalie Robson and DC Olivia Scorer.
“We also would like to thank the CPS, Victim Support, Mr McDonald QC and Mr Adams junior counsel and all prosecution witnesses.
“Collectively all of these individuals have ensured that justice be rightly served and a dangerous man removed from society.
“Jacqueline will never return to us but she will live on in our memories and those of her friends until such time when we can be re-united.”
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Bentham, the officer in charge of the investigation, said: “We welcome the verdict given to Streener, which reflects the horrific nature of his crime.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Jacqueline Grant and I want to praise and thank them for their help with the investigation and the way they have handled themselves throughout.
“Streener chose to plead not guilty meaning Jacqueline Grant’s family were made to go through the whole ordeal again, which I know has caused a lot of stress and upset.
“What Streener did was calculated and the actions of a very dangerous and disturbing man.
“After murdering Jacqueline Grant he tried to put plans in place to cover what he did up — these included setting fire to the crime scene, sending fake text messages to himself from Jacqueline’s phone and fabricating a far fetched story about intruders breaking into the house.
“Thanks to some excellent work by our officers and the fire service we were able to piece together what happened inside Meadowbank Drive and bring Streener to justice.
“I hope this result brings some form of closure to everyone affected by the incident and people can take some comfort that a dangerous individual is off the streets for a considerable period of time.”