British actress dismembered by brother over overflowing sink

LONDON (AFP) - A former star of the British soap EastEnders was beaten to death and dismembered by her brother after they argued over an overflowing sink, a court heard on Monday as the murder trial opened.

Tony McCluskie, 35, denies murder but has admitted the manslaughter of his sister Gemma, whose headless and limbless torso was found in a London canal last March.

Tony McCluskie had left the bathroom taps on at the east London flat they shared and his 29-year-old sister had driven home to tell him this was the "last straw" and he had to move out, London's Old Bailey court heard.

Prosecutor Crispin Aylett said McCluskie had killed his sister after the argument on March 1, cut up her body and dumped it in the Regent's Canal in east London.

The severed head of the actress, who played Kerry Skinner in the BBC soap in 2001, was not discovered until September.

McCluskie claims he "blanked out" after arguing with his sister and has no recollection of killing her, the jury heard.

"He does not remember killing her, nor can he recall cutting her up, nor does he remember dumping her body in the canal," Mr Aylett told the court.

A pathologist found bruises on the actress's severed arms and legs as well as cuts indicating that she had been struck on the head at least twice with a blunt instrument.

"For some time, there had been tension between Miss McCluskie and her brother," Mr Aylett said.

"This was largely as a result of the defendant's habitual use of cannabis."

McCluskie had led the police on a "wild goose chase" after killing his sister, reporting her missing and telling detectives she had been seen several times since her disappearance, the court heard.

"He did everything he could to put himself beyond suspicion," Mr Aylett said.

But investigators found blood in his bathroom and car boot and a blood-stained knife in the kitchen.

"No doubt he did it in the heat of the moment, no doubt he soon came to regret what he had done," Mr Aylett said.

The trial continues.

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