Notorious bully knows ‘true story’ of Portsmouth woman’s death, inquest told

Gary Saunders pictured in 2005
Gary Saunders pictured in 2005
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NOTORIOUS bully Gary Saunders knows the ‘true story’ behind a woman’s death, a coroner says, after it was revealed he was arrested for her murder.

Christina Jewell, 53, was found dead at home in her bed in Handsworth House, Somers Town, last April.

I’m so sorry for Christina, it’s no way to die

Coroner David Horsley

A coroner recorded an ‘open conclusion’ into her death after saying he could not be satisfied she was unlawfully killed or died accidentally.

Ms Jewell, who is survived by her children and mother, was seen with bruising and swelling to the right of her jaw and eye on March 26, nine days before her April 4 death.

Yesterday at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, Detective Sergeant Nicola Turton, from major crime, said Saunders, 56, was held over theft and murder. He was later released with no further action.

Det Sgt Turton said a friend of Ms Jewell asked about the injury but was told: ‘I’m not going to grass him up.’

The officer added: ‘She said that Gary had gone for her and assaulted her but was adamant she was not going to report it to the police.’

Neighbours had told police that Ms Jewell said she was ‘scared what Gary might do’ if she told the council he was living with her in her flat, the inquest heard.

A neighbour who saw Saunders told police he said ‘she’s dead’ and when asked who he replied: ‘Christina.’

The inquest heard Saunders said: ‘Christina is dead to the world.’

Det Sgt Turton added: ‘He said something along the lines of “I knew she was going to die because of the way she had been breathing last night”.’

In interview, Saunders told police the night before his friend Ms Jewell was found dead he helped her into the sitting room to watch television.

‘He tried talking to her but she did not talk back, her eyes were closed when he left the room,’ Det Sgt Turton said.

Saunders told police he watched television, went to the shop between 10.30pm and 11pm and thought he should call a doctor but decided to wait until the morning.

He woke at 9am, showered, left at 10.30am, did not check on Ms Jewell and went out before realising she had died.

Someone called paramedics, who found Ms Jewell’s body at 12.30pm. Paramedics called police, and when Saunders returned with a friend he was arrested for theft as he was found with bank notes and Ms Jewell’s bank card.

Arresting officer PC Timothy Rolfe said: ‘He was concentrating more on the fact he had been arrested for theft and getting rid of the bank card he was holding.’

Asked if Saunders appeared to be concerned for Ms Jewell, PC Rolfe said: ‘No.’

The inquest heard Ms Jewell, who had a history of alcoholism and who had been estranged from her family until January last year, developed pneumonia.

Pathologist Dr Russell Delaney said she died due to ‘severe pneumonia’ and ketoacidosis – a build-up of acid – after she stopped drinking. He told the inquest the fracture to her jaw could have been caused by either a fall following an epileptic fit, which Saunders had claimed, or a single blow.

Ms Jewell told neighbours both that Saunders assaulted her and the jaw injury had been caused by a fall.

Recording an open conclusion, coroner David Horsley said: ‘Quite clearly the only person who could help us with all of this is probably never going to talk about it.

‘The only person who could nail this down one way or the other I’m sure, given the nature of the man and his history we’ve heard about from the police, is never going to reveal the true story.’

Mr Horsley added: ‘In many ways I believe I’m as confused as her family must also be as well as police.

‘The one thing I do feel for certain is that on the balance of probabilities what seems to be more likely than not is that the underlying cause of her dying is the injury to her jaw which has led to those other things. She wasn’t a well lady to begin with.’

The inquest heard the jaw injury would have meant it was painful to eat or drink, contributing to her death.

Addressing Ms Jewell’s family, Mr Horsley said: ‘It’s a dreadful situation for you to be in, thinking Christina has been unlawfully killed.

‘It’s a possibility but it’s also a possibility that she’s fallen over.

‘This situation has been a tragedy, I feel so sorry for Christina, that she’s been in this position because of many factors, her lifestyle and people she mixed with and the fact she cut herself off from her family. I’m so sorry for Christina, it’s no way to die.’

Saunders was spared jail at Portsmouth Crown Court in March this year after breaching an Asbo handed to him in a bid to stop him terrorising shopkeepers and residents in Portsmouth. The court heard he has 97 convictions.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: ‘Hampshire Constabulary investigated the death of Christina Jewell.

‘A man from Portsmouth was arrested in connection with her death. He was later released with no further action on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service.

‘The force respects the coroner’s conclusion of an open verdict.’