Gemma McCluskie: EastEnders actress threatened brother Tony with knife, murder trial hears

Gemma McCluskie

Gemma McCluskie - Credit: submitted

Tony McCluskie, standing trial for the murder of EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie, claims he killed her and cut up her body after she threatened him with a knife, the Old Bailey heard today (MON).

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Tony McCluskie in the dock at the Old Bailey. Picture: Eliz

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Tony McCluskie in the dock at the Old Bailey. Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Window cleaner Tony McCluskie, 35, says he lost control and attacked the 29 year-old barmaid after weeks of humiliating abuse and criticism, jurors were told.

He claims his last memory is of her picking up a knife during a blazing row about him flooding the bathroom by leaving the sink taps running.

McCluskie is thought to have battered Gemma over the head with a blunt object and then cut her body into six pieces with a meat cleaver at the family home in Pelter Street, Bethnal Green.

He was caught on CCTV taking the remains in a suitcase to dump in the Regent’s Canal in Hackney. Four days later the torso was discovered by a barge owner floating in the water.

Tony McCluskie, who admits the killing but denies murder on the grounds of lack of intent and loss of control, is due to give evidence this afternoon.

Jeremy Dein QC, opening the defence case for Tony McCluskie, warmed the jurors not to be swayed by their emotions about the ‘unimaginably torrid’ details of the trial.

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“Noone could blame you if your emotions were raised and your sympathies were overwhelmingly in favour of Gemma McCluskie and her family.

“The reality is she ought to be alive today and Tony McCluskie ought to be at work, ”

Mr Dein said that Tony McCluskie did not intend and could not intend to kill his sister or cause her serious bodily harm.

But if jurors were sure he did then the murder charge could be reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of loss of control - the defence formerly known as provocation.

Mr Dein added: “Something must have been said or done so as to trigger what must be regarded as a justifiable loss of control.

“In this case it was in the background of months of Gemma behaving frequently - not always - in a volatile and abusive way towards the defendant. That trigger was the production of a knife.’

“He will tell you that she was frequently abusive and offensive towards him. She put him down and made him feel humiliated, that she used bad language and was critical of him and though she could often be charming and delightful, and although he would generally turn his back, this persisted.

“What led to the tragic scenario is her reaction to his having left those taps running that morning.

“He will tell you he woke up feeling unwell, there was a row. He recalls Gemma taking up a knife and issuing threats.

“He remembers grabbing her wrists and then as far as his memory goes he will say it is blank.

“We will maintain that for a man like him who... had killed his own sister, the shock, panic, despair and desperation of what he had done, and what he was to do, combined are matters perfectly capable to have blocked in his mind any memory of that course of events.”

Mr McCluskie was described as a ‘quiet man’ and a ‘diligent’ worker for a firm contracted to clean windows at the Lloyd’s building in central London.

He was also a long-standing smoker of cannabis, particularly skunk, and had also used cocaine, the court heard.

Mr Dein said McCluskie became “increasingly worn down by problems” and was losing weight, motivation and sleep.

On the day of the killing, March 1 of last year, his mother was seriously ill in hospital after contracting MRSA following an operation to remove a brain tumour. He had also recently split up with his long-term partner and feared losing his job.

McCluskie, who was sharing a flat in Pelter Street, Bethnal Green, with his sister admits manslaughter but denies murder.

The trial continues.