United Kingdom

Woman, 52, who murdered her retired civil servant ex-boyfriend dies of Covid in prison 

Sharon Swinhoe, 52, was serving a minimum of 25-years for murder

A woman who murdered her retired civil servant ex-boyfriend and stuffed his body in a freezer has died after testing positive for Covid-19 in jail.

Sharon Swinhoe, 52, was serving a minimum of 25-years for battering to death Peter McMahon and gouging his eyes out in the 2012 attack.

Swinhoe and former lover Joseph Collins, then 54, killed the 68-year-old pensioner in Swinhoe's flat in Newcastle.

The body was then moved in a suitcase to Collins' flat in Elswick, Newcastle, where they hid it in his freezer.

The pair then plundered Mr McMahon's bank account of thousands of pounds.

Police discovered the victim's mutilated body in the second-hand chest freezer in December 2012.

Swinhoe had called 999 and tried to blame the killing on Collins.

The pair were found guilty of murder at Newcastle Crown Court in July 2013 after a six week trial.

Collins was sentenced to a minimum of 20-years in jail.

A second man, Ronald Douglas, 77, also a former lover of Swinhoe, admitted helping move the body.

Swinhoe battered Peter McMahon, 68, (pictured) to death and gouged his eyes out in the 2012 attack

He was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Swinhoe died on February 23 after contracting coronavirus at New Hall jail in Flockton, West Yorkshire.

She had been transferred from the all-women prison to a nearby hospital suffering from multi-organ failure.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “HMP New Hall prisoner Sharon Swinhoe died in hospital on 23 February.

"The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been informed.”

The Prison Service said it could not confirm the cause of death which was a matter for the coroner.

Swinhoe died on the February 23 after contracting coronavirus at New Hall jail in Flockton, West Yorkshire (pictured)

Swinhoe killed Peter McMahon with the help of Joseph Collins (left), then 54. Ronald Douglas, then 77, (right) admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice

Newcastle Crown Court was told that Mr McMahon was last seen alive on 18 October 2012 when he took a taxi to the home of Swinhoe, with whom he had been having a relationship.

His body was found six weeks later on the 1st December in the chest freezer in Collins's flat.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had suffered a number of injuries, including gouging to the eyes.

During the trial, twice-married Mr McMahon was described as being besotted with Swinhoe, who was 24 years his junior.

He would buy her presents and she was described by the prosecution as seeing Mr McMahon as a sugar daddy.

Swinhoe and Collins were assisted by another of her boyfriends, Ronald Douglas (pictured front left with them)

Prior to his body being discovered Mr McMahon’s son phoned from New Zealand to tell his father he had become a grandfather.

Swinhoe answered the call and said he could not come to the phone because he was sleeping - despite it being early evening.

Jailing Swinhoe, Mr Justice Globe said at the time that she appeared to show no remorse for the killing, adding: 'You appear to care more about the rats you kept as pets than the man who loved you and asked to marry you and bought you an £1,100 engagement ring.

'Peter McMahon was a well-liked respected, generous, mature man living comfortably on his two pensions in the Newcastle area.

'In common with the two men sitting alongside you Sharon Swinhoe, his downfall was that he fell victim to your charm that has attracted men to you like magnets.

'Ultimately he fell victim to your much more sinister, controlling and violent personality.'

More than £2,600 found in her flat after the murder must be repaid to the family, the judge ordered.

The trio in the lift at Collins' flat on the night the body is believed to have been moved there (pictured)

After the case Detective Chief Inspector Paul Young said: 'Peter McMahon was a decent, hard-working man who was looking forward to becoming a grandfather.

'Swinhoe and Collins targeted him for financial gain, preying on his generosity and then plundering his bank accounts after his death.

'Mr McMahon believed they were his friends, but they brutally murdered him and then conspired with Ronald Douglas to cover up their crime by hiding the body and denying responsibility.'

In a statement, Mr McMahon’s family described Swanhoe as 'cruel, calculated and cold hearted.

The statement said: 'He (Mr McMahon) will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

'It is particularly tragic that he not only had his life taken from him, but that these people showed utter disrespect for it afterwards.

'He was also denied the chance to learn he had become a grandfather which he had always dearly wanted.

'We still can’t believe that anybody could be so cruel, calculated and cold hearted against our dad.

'Rest in peace dad.'

The family thanked Northumbria Police and the CPS for bringing Mr McMahon's killers to justice.

Following the verdict, Gerry Sydenham, head of the Crown Court Unit at CPS North East, said: 'It is clear from the evidence in this case that Swinhoe manipulated Peter McMahon in the same way that she manipulated the two men who would later assist her in his murder and the disposal of his body.

'It is evident that Peter had genuine affection for Swinhoe but she chose to exploit those feelings and, on October 18 last year, she led Peter to believe that he was leaving his home to rekindle their relationship. The truth is that she was leading him to his eventual death.

'After the murder, Swinhoe and Collins showed not a scrap of remorse.

'Their every action from that point was a calculated attempt to evade justice, including their inhuman treatment of Mr McMahon’s remains and the web of lies they told, both to Peter’s family and to police.

'Ultimately, the only thing that they have achieved through their despicable actions is to prolong the suffering of Peter’s family and friends.

'I am pleased with the sentences passed today and I would hope that they give some measure of comfort to those who knew Peter McMahon at what must be a very difficult time for them.'

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