Killer who daubed taunts on Chorley mum-of-two's body in her own blood is jailed for life
Schoolfriends have paid heartfelt tributes to a former nursery worker as her murderer begins a life sentence.
Tragic mum-of-two Gemma Leeming, 30, was found strangled, with the words ‘no brain’ written on her face in mascara, and ‘you can’t have my brains’ on her chest in her own blood.
Police also found a ten pence piece placed over her right eye.
Her partner Craig O'Sullivan, 40, who has several aliases, pleaded guilty to murdering her between May 21 and 23.
O’Sullivan tried to cover the ligature marks on Gemma’s neck with make-up and bought new clothes the day after the murder to try and prevent forensics linking him to the killing.
Police recovered a bag of clothing that he had tried to get rid of, including some of Gemma’s clothes stained with her blood.
Her body was discovered in the bedroom of a bungalow in Chorlcliffe Mews on Hollinshead Street in Chorley on May 23.
Judge Alan Conrad QC, sitting at Preston Crown Court, sentenced him to life with a minimum term of 17 and a half years before he will be eligible to apply for parole.
Gemma attended Southlands High School in Chorley, and is fondly remembered by her fellow pupils.Devastated friend Martin Fairclough, from Chorley, said: " I grew up with Gemma. She was a really good friend to me at school."
" I have a lot of memories. Gemma was the nicest and kindest girl I knew. She always had time for her close friends and nothing was too much trouble for her.
"When we finished high school we sort of went our separate ways but we always knew if we needed each other we could always ring each other which we did at times.
"We had like a brother and sister relationship where Gemma had my back and I had hers - we could go a year without talking and then we would meet up and help sort each other’s problems out.
"When I found out she had passed away my heart sank. Then I heard what happened and I was shocked. Gemma never told me about any of this which upset me as she always knew she could always talk to me like I could with her.
" I knew Gemma had problems but didn’t know they were that bad. I wish she could have just talked to me.
He described O'Sullivan as a "vile human being" who had been jealous of their close friendship,and had stopped her speaking to him.
He added: "Gemma didn’t deserve to be gone so soon."
Another fellow pupil added: "We hadn't really spoken since school. She was a lovely, quiet girl at school and it's very sad what happened to her."After leaving school Gemma became a nursery worker at Learning Steps Day Nursery on Parker Street in Chorley, in 2004. She did a modern apprenticeship, obtaining a level 2 qualification.A member of staff there did not wish to comment about Gemma.It is understood she left in 2009 and took a break from working to be a mum to her son and daughter.The bubbly mum described herself on Facebook as being "into all sorts of things - I enjoy listening to music, going for walks, being with friends and like to take on new challenges.
Detective Inspector Paddy O’Neill from the Lancashire Police Force Major Investigation Team said: “Craig O’Sullivan is a vicious, manipulative and parasitic man, whose greed drove him to take Gemma’s life in the most sickening manner; all so that he could satisfy his addiction to Class A drugs.
“Witnesses told us that in the few weeks Gemma and O’Sullivan were together Gemma had been really happy. Other witnesses told us that at the same time O’Sullivan had openly told them that he was only with Gemma because she had a ready supply of controlled drugs.
"In the hours prior to Gemma’s discovery, O’Sullivan spoke to a local officer and showed her a picture of someone other than Gemma, claiming that this lady was the love of his life.
“On the night of the murder we understand Gemma had been paid a sum of money in O’Sullivan’s presence, and had also received a quantity of drugs that she was to sell on. Later that night we believe O’Sullivan strangled Gemma and stole the drugs and the money.
"He then went to considerable efforts to hide what he had done and to avoid detection. We believe he desecrated Gemma’s body in an attempt to persuade those who may judge him in the future that he was suffering from some sort of psychotic break-down.”
“Gemma’s life story is indeed a sad one and it is clear she made some bad choices. However, she had two children and a wider family who loved her and who hoped one day for a reconciliation with her. O’Sullivan’s actions have robbed them of that opportunity.”