Steven Morris and Jessica Murray, The Guardian, May 4, 2021
A woman murdered a vulnerable female neighbour who had turned down her demands for sex before dismembering her body with a circular saw and attempting to burn the remains in a forest.
Gareeca Gordon, 28, stabbed her friend Phoenix Netts, also 28, in a shared property run by a service that works with homeless people in Birmingham.
As she disposed of her remains over the next month, Gordon tried to cover up her crime by sending texts, emails and voice messages purporting to be from the dead woman to her family and friends.
Jailing Gordon for life with a minimum term of 23 years and six months, Mrs Justice Cutts described Netts as a “deeply loved” person who was planning to move back to live with her parents in London at the time of her death, but had been delayed by coronavirus restrictions.
“Her future was looking bright, shining and promising. A fresh start was ahead of her,” the judge told Gordon. “You robbed her of that fresh start. You took her from the supportive parents who loved and cherished her.”
The judge said that days before the murder, Gordon “demanded sex” from Netts and became physically aggressive, pushing her around the room, when she refused.
Cutts described Gordon as a “very dangerous young woman”, saying none of the wounds would have been fatal had she called for help but she refused to do so and it may have been 12 hours before Netts died.
“She must have been very frightened in those hours,” the judge said. Cutts described Gordon’s attempts to pretend Netts was still alive as “wicked and callous”.
Gordon’s mother, whose name was not given in court, said in a letter to the judge that her daughter was a “ticking timebomb.”
The court heard Gordon had a personality disorder but after moving from London to Birmingham, nobody in the health services had any idea of her history. Her mother said Gordon had suffered traumas in her life but added: “Gareeca is not a bad person at heart.”
Gordon stabbed Netts on 16 April last year. She was arrested in the Forest of Dean on 12 May, with officers finding her beside a quarry with two suitcases containing Netts’ charred remains. She pleaded guilty to murder days before she was to stand trial.
Opening the case for the prosecution, Andrew Smith QC said Netts told a friend that Gordon had “demanded sex with her” and became “aggressive” when she had said no. On 7 April, Netts sent a text message to a friend: “There’s a girl here who keeps asking me to be sexual … It’s scaring me.”
In the hours after the attack, Netts’s phone was used to make internet searches including “how to fix punctured lung”, “internal bleeding” and “can someone recover from getting stabbed”.
The day after the murder, Gordon bought a circular saw and dismembered Netts’s body.
She made a series of journeys to the Forest of Dean more than 70 miles away and made online searches including: “How do killers get caught?” and “Can a body burn to ashes with petrol?”
Police officers investigating reports of a car driving in the area during the coronavirus lockdown discovered Gordon with the two suitcases.
Smith told the court that the pain experienced by Netts’s family was “exacerbated by the knowledge of the manner of her death and the defendant impersonating her”.
Her father, Mark, said in a statement: “Our lives have been irreversibly changed and the anguish is indescribable.” Her mother, Saskia, said she was “forever devastated, forever empty”.