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, June 2, 2015
[Photo Met Police]

An independent review found officers and prosecutors need to improve the way they handle rape complaints.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
[Photograph by Tristan Newkey-Burden]

Police have launched a murder investigation after an 18-year-old was stabbed to death in Sydenham High Street yesterday.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Police were called to a fight on Welham Road, Tooting [Image from Google StreetView]

Police have launched a murder investigation after a man was hit by a vehicle and died in Tooting.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Mulberry Lodge Day and Care Centre in Barkingside. Pic: Google Streetview

A carer who used WhatsApp to share extreme films of a woman having sex with a snake, a horse and a dog wept as she was spared jail today yesterday.

Sunday, May 31, 2015
The beer can caused such bad injuries to the woman's face that she is still having treatment [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Police are appealing for witnesses after a man hit a woman so hard in the face with a beer can that she is still receiving medical treatment two months later.

Sunday, May 31, 2015
The altercation took place outside this pub in north-west London [Image from Google StreetView]

A 72-year-old man is in hospital with life-threatening head injuries after a fight outside a pub on Swiss Cottage’s Finchley Road on Friday night.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Time to expand with the LeefiBRIDGE.

More iOS memory in a flash: Introducing Leef iBRIDGE.

Read more
The sell out 2014 event 32 Londoners, returns to the Coca-Cola London Eye!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is proud to announce that 32 Londoners will be returning this June, following last year’s sell out event. The event will feature 32 talks, in each of the London Eye’s 32 capsules on 32 extraordinary Londoners.

Read more
You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Read more