Woman jailed for life after admitting teenager's murder in 2004

A female football coach who walked into a police station to confess to the unsolved murder of a teenager who was battered to death outside his home in 2004 has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 and a half years.

Monday, 1st October 2018, 2:47 pm
Updated Monday, 1st October 2018, 3:52 pm
Karen Tunmore, now 36, attacked Pritchard near his Sunderland home in January 2004. He was using crutches at the time and was subjected to a savage attack. Photo credit: Northumbria Police/PA Wire

Karen Tunmore, 36, from Killingworth, North Tyneside, could no longer live with the guilt and confessed in July to killing Scott Pritchard, 19, in Sunderland, smashing him over the head with a baseball bat in a row over money.

Mr Pritchard's father Robert Stacey, known as Fred, was charged with murdering his own son and spent 16 weeks on remand before the case against him was dropped in 2005.

In a Victim Personal Statement read out at Newcastle Crown Court, Mr Stacey said people continued to shout abuse at him, even though he was cleared, and he was scared to walk around Sunderland city centre "for fear of being accused of a crime I did not commit".

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Tunmore had never been a suspect in the long-running murder inquiry and she was not known to have any link to the victim, police said.

Following an attempt to kill herself, Tunmore confessed to a friend in July that she had murdered someone and voices in her head were telling her to do it again.

With the friend's support, she confessed to police that she had attacked Mr Pritchard and gave them an account that only someone at the scene could have known.

She explained how she was owed £120 by a man she would only identify as "Ste", who in turn said he was owed £200 by Mr Pritchard.

Drunk on vodka and alcopops, she got Ste to drive them from North Tyneside to Sunderland where they found Mr Pritchard near his home, walking on crutches as his foot was in a cast.

When her victim failed to come up with the cash she threatened to break his other leg with her 18 inch long baseball bat.

She was to tell police that she saw red when he laughed at her, and smashed him in the head causing him to slump down the wall outside his house, before she hit him repeatedly on the top of his head, causing catastrophic brain injuries.

This was despite "Ste" telling her to stop.

Tunmore described to police how she dumped the baseball bat in the sea at North Shields Fish Quay, then sold her car which was blood-stained from the weapon.

She watched the news in the coming weeks and months and knew that her victim's father had been charged.

Mr Pritchard was seriously ill and was unable to attend court to see Tunmore sentenced.

Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, said the discontinued prosecution against Mr Stacey was based on "wholly circumstantial evidence" and a not guilty verdict was formally found at court before the case went to trial.

But by that time he had spent 16 weeks in Durham Prison and subsequent time in a bail hostel.

Mr Stacey had seen his son on the evening he died and had requested he did not visit him that night.

In his victim statement he said he got on well with his son, although he was separated from Mr Pritchard's mother Kathleen, but he did not want him to come as he had recently been drinking at his father's house.

Mr Stacey said he was tortured by the thought that if he had allowed his son to come over he would still be alive today and his son's murder had "broken" him.

A year later he was arrested for murder which "came out of nowhere", he said. Initially he said his family stood by him but "once I was charged everyone was calling me a murderer, I was heart-broken".

Recalling being on remand in Durham Prison, Mr Stacey said: "I was in a cell for 23 hours a day. It was the worst time of my life. I was in prison for a crime I was not responsible for."

He said even now people on the maternal side of his son's family and other locals shouted "murdering bastard" at him and he had moved away from the Hendon area of Sunderland.

He said: "I lost my home due to threats I received and even after I was released, I had a huge boulder thrown through my front window.

"I still feel uncomfortable walking around Sunderland city centre for fear of being accused of a crime I did not commit."

Kathleen Pritchard said in her statement that she had believed that her ex-partner was the killer.

She said: "For 14 years I have believed that his father Fred Stacey was responsible and have hated him since then."

Her son's murder had turned her into an alcoholic and she was paranoid, keeping the gates locked at the house where he was killed and where she still lived, she said in her statement.

Tunmore, who had a history of convictions including drunk and disorderly, public order offences, affray and carrying a blade, was genuinely remorseful, said Stuart Graham, defending.

He said: "Perhaps something in her of a redeemable nature made her come forward and wish to have justice and be punished for her offending."

Tunmore, who had tattooed arms, cropped hair and wore a grey tracksuit, was using crutches for the hearing and the court was told the football coach may have to have part of her foot amputated.