Broadstairs: Husband Sentenced To 25 Years

The estranged husband of a woman found dead in Broadstairs has pleaded guilty to murdering her.

55 year old Lee Vincent Paul Birch of no fixed abode, admitted his guilt at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday 11 April. He was sentenced the same day to serve 25 years in prison.

The court heard how on Thursday 7 November 2013, Birch beat and strangled Anne-Marie Birch, 47, with a piece of rope in a field in Whiteness Road, Broadstairs.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Anne-Marie had received unwanted visits and contact from Birch following the breakdown of their marriage.

He had moved out of the marital home but continued to visit unannounced and contacted Anne-Marie's friends and family to try and find out information about her life.

In the morning of 7 November, Birch visited the marital home in Nethercourt Gardens, Ramsgate, where he hid in a garden cupboard. But after Anne-Marie's dog found him, he ran out of the garden, jumping over the back fence.

He headed to the nearby harbour area before walking along the seafront to Covent Road where he knew Anne-Marie would be out walking dogs as part of her dog walking business. Investigations by officers later found the route Birch took from the harbour to Covent Road would have taken approximately one hour and 45 minutes on foot.

Shortly after midday, she walked past him and he approached her from behind. He told her he wanted to talk but when Anne-Marie dismissed him he grabbed her and used a piece of rope he retrieved from the garden cupboard earlier that day to strangle her to death. He also hit her over the head several times with a nearby branch.

He then left the scene in Anne-Marie's car, returning the dogs Anne-Marie had been walking back to her customer's house.

In the following few hours Birch visited her home address and her mother's home address in Church Road. He also attempted to clean the mud and blood off his clothes before driving to a public house near Ramsgate seafront where he spoke to bar staff and customers and ordered two pints of beer and a packet of crisps.

At 1.33pm a member of the public discovered Anne-Marie's body in a field just off Whiteness Road, Broadstairs. Officers and ambulance staff attended but Anne-Marie was pronounced dead at the scene.

A short while later at 3.09pm, Birch called Kent Police stating he had killed his wife and left her in a field. He told police where to find Anne-Marie and that he planned to take his own life.

Officers attended Pegwell Road in Ramsgate where they located and arrested Birch.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Richard Vickery from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "Lee Birch struggled to come to terms with the break-up of his marriage and the fact Anne-Marie had moved on.

"He subjected her to a relentless campaign of harassment as she tried to go about her everyday life. He knew her daily movements almost on an hour-by-hour basis. On the day Birch killed Anne-Marie he walked almost two hours to go and wait for her as she walked a customer's dogs to the park.

"After killing her, he left her body in a field and calmly took the dogs back to their owners, then cleaned himself up and went to the pub for a drink and to socialise with those going about their everyday lives.

"I'm pleased Birch's guilt has been recognised by the court and he can look forward to a substantial prison term where he can contemplate his horrendous actions."

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