Gemma McCluskie trial: Friend comforted murder accused Tony McCluskie

15:41 16 January 2013

Gemma McCluskie. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Gemma McCluskie. Picture: Metropolitan Police

A friend of Gemma McCluskie told a jury today how she cuddled the actress’s brother to comfort him, unaware he had dismembered her body days earlier.

Nicole McLaren told the Old Bailey today that she “felt sorry” for Tony McCluskie as they searched for his sister in the days following her disappearance in March last year.

McCluskie, 35, of Pelter Street, Shoreditch, denies murdering the 29-year-old, cutting up her body and dumping it in the Regent’s Canal in east London.

He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Ms McLaren, a neighbour who had known Gemma since childhood, told the court that she and the defendant visited pubs together where his sister worked in an effort to trace her.

She said: “I was walking ahead in the street and I heard Tony say, ‘where’s my sister?’ I cuddled him, we were holding each other.”

Ms McLaren said she “felt sorry” for McCluskie when his brother Danny reacted angrily over his apparent confusion about when he last saw their sister.

She told the court: “I rubbed Tony’s leg because I felt sorry for him. I thought he was under pressure. He was nervous.”

Ms McLaren said she noticed bandages on McCluskie’s hand shortly after his sister’s disappearance.

“He said he’d had a fight with two fellas outside his house about a fortnight earlier,” she said.

Ms McLaren told defence barrister Jeremy Dein QC that she had only seen Gemma react angrily once, when she slapped a man in a bar.

She had also exchanged “heated” messages on Facebook with a woman her boyfriend had been seeing, Ms McLaren said.

A police search of the house McCluskie shared with his sister found that entry to her bedroom was blocked by piles of clothes, leading officers to believe she was hoarding items, the court heard.

When Gemma was reported missing to police, the defendant told officers he was not initially concerned when she failed to return home because he believed she was staying with a friend.

Miss McCluskie played Kerry Skinner, the niece of Ethel Skinner, in EastEnders in 2001.

Her torso was discovered on March 6 and over the next fortnight, her arms and legs were recovered separately from the water.

Her head, which had been dumped in the canal at the same time, was not found until September.

Police discovered that a man with a heavy suitcase matching McCluskie’s description had taken a minicab to the canal the day after his sister disappeared.

Blood was found in the boot of the car and McCluskie’s father and brother “no doubt with heavy hearts” said they recognised him from CCTV.

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest Crime news

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Pictured: not the perfect crime [Photograph by Flixtey/Wikimedia Commons]

An Ilford man has escaped jail after he tried to rob a bookmakers with a tin of fish.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Chun Man Ho has now been convicted of six different sex offences [Photograph from British Transport Police]

An Edgware man has been jailed after he molested a 15-year-old boy on a crowded District Line train.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
British Transport Police would like to speak to woman pictured (Pic: Youtube/Channel Mix)

A woman has been secretly filmed hurling abuse at fellow commuters on the district line.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The Homocide and Major Crime Command unit are investigating

A murder investigation has been launched after a woman’s body was found in a flat in Romily Court off Landridge Road.

Monday, March 30, 2015
The hunt is on to find the three knifemen

A cyclist was the victim of a horrific unprovoked attack when he was stabbed five times by a trio of thugs - but still managed to get back on his bike and keep riding.

Monday, March 30, 2015
British Transport Police would like to speak to this woman pictured in the station on CCTV (Pic: British Transport Police)

Police are appealing for information after a deaf homeless woman was physically assaulted at Wanstead tube station over the weekend.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Vroom! You could be emmersed in the action at the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship.

The MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship fires into Brands Hatch on 17/18/19 April for one of the most anticipated seasons in recent years as 39 riders are set for two fierce contests on the 1.2 mile Indy circuit.

Read more