The disappearance of Gemma McCluskie, a well-known British TV actress, left the community stunned, prompting her friends from the entertainment industry and beyond to join forces in the search for her. However, a few days later, the police recovered her beheaded and dismembered torso from a canal. The brutal nature of the crime made it challenging to comprehend who could inflict such harm on someone like Gemma. In ‘Vengeance: Killer Families: Suspicious Baggage,’ the documentary unveils how the police managed to connect the murder to her brother, Tony McCluskie.
How Did Gemma McCluskie Die?
On March 3, 2012, Tony McCluskie, Gemma McCluskie’s brother, visited the police station to report that his sister hadn’t returned home in two days, expressing his concern for her well-being. The police, considering Gemma as a 29-year-old adult, initially downplayed the urgency of the situation, filing a complaint but treating it as a low-priority case. As the search continued with no signs of Gemma, Tony took the initiative to assemble a group of 100 people to actively look for her.
The police intensified their investigation into Gemma McCluskie’s disappearance and discovered that she was last seen at her residence on Pelter Street in Shoreditch in London, which she shared with her brother, on the afternoon of March 1, 2012. She had visited a kebab shop around 8 p.m., and thereafter, there were no further sightings of her. On March 6, the police found a headless torso in the Regent Canal. Identification was made possible due to a butterfly tattoo on the neck, confirming that the remains belonged to Gemma. Because there was no head found with the body, the police were not able to determine the cause of her death but it was ruled as a homicide.
Who Killed Gemma McCluskie?
Gemma McCluskie, born on February 5, 1983, was raised in a working-class family. Her father worked as a builder, and her mother was a homemaker. Despite her parents’ separation, Gemma continued to grow up in a stable environment alongside her brother, Tony McCluskie. Gemma harbored a deep passion for acting from a young age and began taking drama lessons at the age of 7. At 17, she achieved her dream role as Kerry Skinner on the well-known BBC drama series ‘EastEnders.’ She wholeheartedly embraced this opportunity, giving her best to the job she had always aspired to have.
In contrast, Tony led a less active life, often spending his time at home smoking marijuana and enjoying a laid-back lifestyle. Gemma faced a challenge in her career when her character was written out of the ‘EastEnders’ series. In her twenties, she took on a job at a pub to financially support her family, which included her mother and Tony. The two siblings often clashed over Tony’s irresponsible and relaxed behavior. Despite the disagreements, their mother managed to maintain a balance between the siblings in the household.
In 2011, when Gemma’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, Gemma assumed the crucial role of being her primary caregiver, accompanying her to hospitals. However, after her mother’s hospitalization, the conflicts between Gemma and Tony escalated. The day before Gemma disappeared, she attended a house party with friends. During the gathering, she received a call from Tony. According to her friends, Tony had left the bathtub tap open, resulting in flooding at their apartment. Gemma was reportedly reprimanding him, and a heated argument ensued, with both Gemma and Tony shouting at each other during the altercation.
The police uncovered further details about Tony’s activities on the night of March 1. Tony had taken a taxi service, carrying a large and heavy suitcase. When questioned by the driver about its contents, Tony claimed it was a stereo system. However, the driver, expressing suspicion, conveyed to the police that it did not appear to be a stereo system. Upon reviewing CCTV footage from the area where the driver had dropped Tony off near the canal, it was observed that Tony did not have the mentioned suitcase upon his return.
On March 10, 2012, the police arrested Tony based on the fact that Gemma’s blood was found in the cab and Gemma’s kitchen. The police found that the time taken to cut off Gemma’s first limb was much greater than the rest of her limbs. They recovered a knife from Tony and Gemma’s house which they assumed was used the first time but could not find the second sharper knife or ax that was used to carry out the dismemberment. The police had found the rest of the dismembered body parts of Gemma’s in the canal and on March 12, they found her head. They were able to conclude that she had died from repeated trauma to her head caused by a blunt object.
Tony McCluskie is Incarcerated Today
Tony McCluskie’s trial commenced on January 14, 2013, at Old Bailey. During the trial, Tony asserted that on the night of March 1, 2012, Gemma returned home and confronted him about the flooding issue, leading to a heated argument. He admitted to becoming angry and grabbing her by the wrists, eventually punching her to the floor. However, he claimed to have no recollection of events following that point and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, citing diminished responsibility.
Tony confessed to losing control and committing the act of manslaughter. The prosecution, however, contended that the method of disposing of Gemma McCluskie’s body suggested that it was not a result of a loss of control. On January 30, 2013, Tony McCluskie was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 20 years. He is currently serving his sentence at His Majesty’s Prison.