Donald Graham will serve life in prison, with a minimum of 32 years for the murder of Janet Brown
Sixty-year-old Graham, formerly of Elsdon Avenue in Seaton Delaval, was found guilty of her murder at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday and was handed a life sentence by Mr Justice Openshaw on Friday morning.
Graham murdered Miss Brown on or around June 17, 2005 and disposed of her body, which has never been found.
Mr Openshaw said Graham was a former JCB driver and could have disposed of her body in a deep deep pit or put her down a mine shaft.
The court heard that the murder of Miss Brown had considerable planning, and was motivated by financial gain for Graham’s extravagant lifestyle.
Graham had already benefited more than £300,000 in cash from Miss Brown before she died, and then drained every last penny of hers after her death.
He also gained money from her parents’ estate by forging documents and committing a number of fraudulent transactions before, and after they had both passed away.
It wasn’t until clerks at the Skipton Building Society suspected fraud on the account of Eric Brown, Janet’s father, that the depth of Graham’s deceit unravelled.
Speaking after the trial, Northumbria Police Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Musgrove said: “I’m pleased with today’s verdict and that justice has finally been done for Janet and her family.
“Her family have shown great dignity throughout the enquiry and I hope they can find some solace that the man responsible for her murder has been found culpable.
“Graham is a controlling and manipulative man, particularly towards women, a bully who deliberately instils fear into people and uses intimidating behaviour to get his own way.
“He is a callous man who made it look like Janet was alive when in fact he had, motivated by financial greed, murdered her.
“Despite living a seemingly modest lifestyle, Janet Brown had considerable assets – Graham fraudulently accessed these and her parents’ money and squandered everything on a lavish lifestyle for himself.”
Graham was sentenced to a number of fraud and forgery offences, as well as conspiracy to pervert the course of a justice which totalled more than 17 years, and he will serve them concurrently.
Co-accused Elizabeth Todd, of Elsdon Avenue in Seaton Delaval, is charged with perverting the course of justice, fraud and forgery which she denies. Jurours failed to reach a verdict in relation to those and she will be tried again at a later date.