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15 June 2017, 17:46 | Updated: 15 June 2017, 18:00
A Norwich man has been found guilty of murdering his former partner following a ‘sustained and brutal’ attack at the beginning of this year.
Joe Storey, 27, who at the beginning of the trial pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murdering 32-year-old Kerri McAuley, was today convicted by unanimous jury following a two-week trial at Norwich Crown Court.
The court heard how Kerri was last seen alive with Storey in Norwich on the evening of Saturday 7 January 2017.
At approximately 10.40pm on the following day (Sunday 8 January 2017) officers were alerted by ambulance crews to reports of a woman who had been found deceased in Southalls Way.
A post mortem examination revealed Kerri had been the subject of a severe blunt force trauma to the face consistent with a serious violent assault. This resulted in every bone in Kerri’s face being broken.
After discovering her body, police arrested Storey at 1.18am the following morning (Monday) in Vanguard Close. A number of forensic seizures were made including a blood stained t-shirt which was later identified to contain the DNA profile of Kerri McAuley.
Storey, from Murrells Court, St John Street, was taken to Aylsham Police Investigation Centre and was charged with murder on 11 January.
Detective Chief Inspector Marie James, from the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Major investigation Team, who led the enquiry said, "This was a chilling, shockingly violent crime; Kerri was subjected to a sustained brutal attack in her own home and the extreme level of violence used has disturbed even the most experienced of detectives who have worked on the case.
"Storey has shown absolutely no remorse at any stage of the investigation and has prolonged the agony for Kerri’s family who have had to endure a trial and listen to evidence, some of which has been extremely distressing for them to hear.
"Any sentence given will never make up for the suffering that Kerri’s family and friends have and continue to endure and my thoughts will remain with them as they try to go through life without her”.
Kerri’s mum, Lesley McAuley, said: "Kerri was full of such a love of life; a sociable, fun loving girl with a heart of gold who was a loyal friend and who touched the lives of so many people. She had so many different groups of friends and I draw strength from the knowledge that Kerri’s memory lives on with them, and from the support that they have given in the days, weeks and months following Kerri’s murder. This has meant a lot to me and my family.
"Above everything else, Kerri worshiped her children and lived for them. Everything she ever did was to give her sons a good and happy life and I take comfort from seeing them now, knowing how proud she would be of the young men that they are to become – a shining testament to the mother that she was to them.
"Though this comfort is bittersweet, it hurts me deeply to know that never again will Kerri and I watch together as they perform in school plays. She will never get to be proud of their successes nor be there to cuddle them when they are sad. It is such a waste of a beautiful soul so cruelly and heartlessly taken.
"My life will never now be whole without Kerri to complete it, as a family we are forever broken. My heart bears the deepest break from which it will never heal.
"She had so much to live for, so much unfulfilled promise. I will forever remember Kerri for the woman that she was but I will always wonder about the woman she was to become.
"Any sentence that is passed will never be enough, the years simply don’t matter. It will never make up for what he has so brutally and cruelly taken from us. Kerri will never be forgotten. She will be forever loved.”
DCI James added: "This case has shown how domestic abuse can quickly turn from violent and frightening to fatal. Norfolk Police will always take any report of domestic abuse seriously and we work closely with many other agencies and organisations to tackle it. I hope this outcome gives victims the courage and confidence to seek help at the earliest opportunity in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.”
Laura McGillivray, Norwich City Council Chief Executive who chairs the Norfolk Community Safety Partnership, commented on the outcome saying: "Our thoughts are with Kerri’s family at this sad time. Kerry’s death shows how domestic abuse can escalate, with fatal consequences.
"Here in Norfolk we are committed to tackling domestic abuse and this outcome has simply underlined how important it is for it to remain a top priority for all agencies involved in the community safety partnership.”
Storey has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Norwich Crown Court tomorrow morning.