A ‘nasty’ postman who was heard by a taxi company bludgeoned a mother-of-three to death with a dumbbell while high on cocaine before trying to hide her body at his home for 11 days has been imprisoned.
Mark Nicholls, 43, hit Emily Sanderson, 50, at least 13 times with the weapon as she called a taxi to collect her from her home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, on May 19.
The murderer’s voice was heard during the call, accusing her of being a “thieving bitch” before Emily’s muffled screams were heard, followed by four “harsh” thuds in the background. Emily was last seen by her family at her father’s funeral the same day and was reported missing a few days later.
Prosecutor Mr Sam Green KC said the loud noises during the call were those of Emily being bludgeoned to death with a dumbbell. He said Emily worked as an escort and the accused was one of her clients.
Nicholls was today jailed for life with a minimum of 17 years at Sheffield Crown Court after admitting the murder at an earlier hearing.
Mark Nicholls (pictured), who bludgeoned an escort to death with a dumbbell while high on cocaine and then tried to hide her body at his home for 11 days, has been jailed.
Emily Sanderson (pictured), 50, was hit at least 13 times with the weapon as she called a taxi to pick her up from her home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, on May 19.
The court heard how he fled his three-bedroom home before returning a few days later, where he was seen digging a hole in his garden and buying packing materials.
Nicholls finally went to police on May 30 when he spoke to his parents while appearing anxious and nervous, telling them he had “screwed up”.
And police then showed up at the house, where they forced entry and found his body.
Sheffield Crown Court heard Emily was wrapped in layers of cloth, while her hands and feet were bound with duct tape.
An autopsy later revealed that Emily had been struck at least 13 times in the head when she was killed.
Emily and Nicholls’ phones were then switched off, and police later found her phone in a field in June with bloodstains on it, the court heard.
CCTV showed how, less than half an hour after killing Emily, Nicholls left the house to escape.
He was later seen in a Shell garage with a female companion carrying suitcases. The couple then went to Sheffield station, took a train to Moulton and had a pint in a pub.
On May 23, Nicholls returned to Sheffield and was seen by neighbors digging a hole in his garden.
Witnesses said he seemed “relaxed and talkative” and said he was digging the hole to fill a pond.
Police officers maintain a cordon at the Hillsborough address where Ms Sanderson’s body was discovered on May 31.
On May 25, he was also seen on CCTV buying parcel tape at a supermarket. But on May 30, Nicholls suddenly spoke to his parents, appearing anxious and nervous, where he said he had “screwed up”.
Mr Green said: “He told his parents he had been drugged and threatened with a knife by a girl, forcing him to knock her out with a dumbbell.
“Your Honor, you may consider the phone call you heard earlier as you think about this.”
Nicholls told a mental health professional at a police station on June 5 how he “killed a lady by hitting her head with a dumbbell.”
Following this, the police forced entry into the house and found his body.
Nicholls pleaded guilty to her murder on September 8.
His lawyer said today that he now accepts that Emily did not threaten him with a knife and that he was drunk and high on crack cocaine at the time of the murder.
More than a dozen family members wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “Emily £1 in a million” watched as Nicholls was evicted.
In a statement read to the court, Emily’s mother, Christine Shann, said: “Emily was an incredible person.
“She was deeply and deeply loved by me, her three children, her siblings, her family and her many friends.
“It is impossible to overstate the emotional damage caused by his murder. Her son and two daughters lost their mother.
“Emily and her children adored and cared for each other, they needed her in their lives and she was stolen.
“The daughter I love was taken away from me, I had to live through every parent’s nightmare and experience the death of my own child.
“Emily had close and treasured relationships with all of her siblings and was a huge and irreplaceable part of their lives.”
Christine added: “What we experienced as a result of this tragedy caused irreversible damage to all of our lives, she was the heart of our family and our heart was ripped out.
“We miss her so much; his absence is so keenly felt. We will never celebrate with her again, never be held by her again, never again receive her help and support, hear her jokes or spend time with her again. She will never meet her children’s children.
“We will never see her realize her immense potential and share the life she deserves, without violence. We feel it every day and will continue to feel it as long as we live.
Judge Jeremy Richardson KC told Nicholls he had committed a “nasty act” without explanation.
The judge said: “You committed a brutal murder on a young woman. You bludgeoned her repeatedly with determined ferocity. You intended to kill her.
“I have no doubt that your plan – an irrational plan – was to bury Emily Sanderson’s body in your backyard.
Emily’s body was found at an address on Crofton Avenue (pictured), Hillsborough, Sheffield.
“There is not an ounce of justification or legitimate explanation for what you did.
“This was a sustained and extremely violent attack on a defenseless woman. It was a relentless barrage of violence that you inflicted on him. It was truly a wicked act.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Bowell said: “Nicholls snatched the lives of a daughter, a sister and a mother in a fit of rage.
“He has since gone to great lengths to blame Emily herself for her death.
“Within minutes of his appalling crime, he launched a thoughtful, thoughtful and protracted plan to conceal her remains and evade prosecution.
“He has shown no real remorse for his truly horrific actions and the torture he subsequently inflicted on his family.”