Sunderland killer jailed for 20 years

Emblehope House, scene of the murder at Farringdon, and (inset) Beverley Briggs
Emblehope House, scene of the murder at Farringdon, and (inset) Beverley Briggs
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THIS is the face of killer Beverley Briggs – carer by day and phone-sex worker by night.

The debt-riddled murderer is today beginning a 20-year jail sentence for the brutal killing of 88-year-old Harriet Davison.

Briggs – also known as Beverley James – beat and suffocated the pensioner, whom she cared for at sheltered accommodation in Sunderland.

The mum-of-three then hatched an “elaborate sham” to cover her tracks, claiming a tattooed intruder had attacked them and ordered them to carry out a series of bizarre acts.

But a jury at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday dismissed her story and found her guilty of murder.

CCTV footage from Emblehope House in Allendale Road, where Harriet lived, helped prove there was no intruder on the day of the killing.

No motive for Harriet’s death was established but Mr Justice Openshaw said he was convinced Briggs, who the court heard “lived by debt”, had been stealing the pensioner’s cash.

As well as being employed by Sunderland-based Care at Home, Briggs also boosted her earnings by working as a phone sex operator in the evenings.

Investigations revealed Harriet should have had about £17,000 cash in her sheltered accommodation at the time of her death, but in fact had just £17.

The judge said: “The defendant’s daily visits to Mrs Davison were not prompted by benevolence towards the old lady but provided an opportunity to exploit her and steal her money.

“I have no doubt that the defendant had been helping herself over the months to Mrs Davison’s money to ease her chronic debt problem.”

In his sentencing, Mr Justice Openshaw branded Briggs’ version of events as “outrageous lies”.

He added that the brutal attack, which left Harriet with multiple bruises and fractures, was “savage and sustained”.

He said: “In an account of what happened to the police, and indeed to the jury, she even threw in a few extra salacious details in an attempt to give spurious authenticity to her untrue story.”

As she was led away to start her sentence, Briggs, a school-caretaker’s wife, told family sitting in the public gallery she would hold her “head high”.

Briggs, of Springwell Road, always denied the murder, telling the court Harriet was “like a nana” to her.

She claimed she had seen the intruder beating the pensioner with a radio. She added that the bald attacker had made her light a cigarette and blow smoke onto his private parts, put a wire around her neck, hit her with a lamp and stuffed a stocking in her mouth.

But after a two week trial and almost eight hours deliberation, jurors found her guilty of murder by a majority of 11 to 1.

Acting DCI Christina Barrett, who led the investigation, said: “This was a brutal attack on a vulnerable elderly woman in her own home.

“Briggs abused her position of trust and care and I am pleased that the jury has returned a guilty verdict and hope that it may come as some comfort to the victim’s family and offer them a degree of closure after what has been a difficult time.”

A spokeswoman for Bernicia, the parent company of Cheviot Homes that runs Emblehope House, said: “We are pleased for all those involved that the court case relating to Mrs Davison’s death has now concluded and that the perpetrator has been brought to justice.

“During this difficult time our focus has remained on the needs of our residents and staff and we continue to offer support to them, their families and to all those affected by this tragic incident.”

No-one was available for comment from Care at Home.