Leeds killer who posed as dead wife wins cut in jail term

A husband who murdered his wife, dismembered and incinerated her body – before donning a wig and pretending to be her – has won a second reduction in his prison term.

George Eckersley, 62, of Colenso Road, Holbeck, Leeds, was jailed in November 2000 after pleading guilty at the city's crown court to the murder of his wife of four years, Denise.

The trial judge recommended he serve at least 16 years, but the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, gave him only 14 years on a review in 2001.

After a second review of the case at the Royal Courts of Justice in

London, a top judge cut the minimum term again to 13 years.

"I propose to reduce the tariff by one year, to recognise the exceptional progress which this applicant has made," said Mrs Justice Gloster.

Eckersley killed his wife by hitting her twice on the head with a candlestick and strangling her. He then dismembered her body, put the parts into bags and incinerated them at a pallet yard where he worked part-time.

A bizarre attempt to cover his tracks then ensued, as Eckersley wrote letters, purportedly from his wife, and withdrew cash from her bank account.

During the month-long charade, he went to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, and, after leaving her holdall in a left luggage locker at the station, tried to make it look like she had killed herself.

On the beach, he left two empty bottles of vodka and a bottle of tablets next to her handbag and threw her coat and a shoe into the water.

He was eventually arrested at Leeds-Bradford Airport as he tried to flee to Amsterdam with a duplicate passport and 5,000 in cash.

But, since he was convicted, Eckersley had proved himself to be "genuinely and deeply remorseful", his lawyers told the High Court judge.

His behaviour was out of character for a man accepted to be "ordinary and mild-mannered", but who had made the mistake of bottling up his feelings.

A report from Ashwell Prison, where he is serving his sentence, said, he had secured "trusted positions" and has worked unsupervised and volunteered to work as a mentor to other prisoners.

He had also raised a lot of money for charities and received letters of commendation.

Eckersley will only be freed after serving his minimum term if he can convince the Parole Board that he is no longer a danger to the public.

He would then remain subject to licence conditions for the rest of his life, with the prospect of recall to prison if he puts a foot wrong.

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19th January 2017.  Photos: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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