A man who flew into a “murderous rage” and battered his lover to death at her quiet country cottage has been found guilty of the frenzied attack and was sentenced to life on the 1st December 2011.
John O’Rourke, 66, used two glass ornaments to beat Amanda Sorrell, 55, around the head and body in a “prolonged, determined attack” in her bedroom.
The married former plumber had always admitted killing the divorced mother-of-two, who worked at Cornwall Registration Service, but denied her murder.
Jurors heard he was the sole carer for his wife, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. His five-year relationship with Ms Sorrell was known to family and friends.
Following a trial at Truro Crown Court, the jury took two-and-a-half hours to find O’Rourke, from Milton Abbot, near Tavistock, guilty of murder. He received a mandatory life sentence and was told by judge Graham Cottle he must serve a minimum term of 14 years, less the 419 days served on remand, before he can be considered for parole.
In evidence, O’Rourke said he could not remember killing Ms Sorrell at her home at Pempwell, near Stoke Climsland, South East Cornwall, on September 27 last year.
He has never revealed what sparked the attack and claimed he could not remember what he had done.
Judge Cottle told him: “You took Amanda Sorrell’s life in a most brutal way. “You literally battered her to death in a prolonged and determined attack.
“In view of the nature and extent of the injuries sustained by her it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that you intended she should not survive.
“It might be in the aftermath of your frenzied attack you regretted what you had done in taking the life of someone you had been in a relationship with for some years, a relationship which, by all accounts, both of you valued.”
Judge Cottle said his lack of an explanation for the murder left Ms Sorrell’s family with unanswered questions and he believed O’Rourke knew the reason.
He said: “I believe something happened to trigger your murderous rage and I believe you knew what that was but you have never revealed it at any stage.”
Much had been made during the trial of the mental strain O’Rourke had been under caring for his wife. Judge Cottle said that, while he understood the strain must have been “considerable”, he did not accept it caused the attack.
The court heard O’Rourke met Ms Sorrell at a local jazz club in 2005 and their blossoming relationship gave him an escape from his home life.
After O’Rourke killed his victim, he used a kitchen knife to stab himself in the neck and abdomen and paramedics later found scratches around his wrists in another apparent suicide attempt.
O’Rourke and Ms Sorrell were discovered lying on the bedroom floor behind the door with a duvet pulled over them by a friend and colleague of hers who became concerned that she failed to attend a meeting.
Ms Sorrell was on her back with a pillow under her head, O’Rourke lying cuddled up next to her.
After sentence was passed, O’Rourke’s two daughters, Victoria and Bobi, broke down in tears and were led away from the courtroom. Ms Sorrell’s family and friends also wept.
Speaking outside the court, her sons, Edward and William Salatas, aged 27 and 25 respectively, described Ms Sorrell as a “devoted mother, sister, auntie and dear friend to all”.
In a joint statement, they said: “When we heard of our mother’s horrific death our worlds fell apart. Amanda was only 55 when her life was taken, just three weeks before the birth of her first grandchild – something she was looking forward to more than anything.
“It’s impossible to begin to understand the cowardly and selfish actions of John, who violently murdered our mother.
“We will never know why he did what he did, but we are grateful that John’s failed suicide attempt has lead us to where we are today and that justice can be served on him.
“We take comfort knowing that he did not succeed with taking his own life after he took our mother’s and hope the memory of his actions haunt him until the day he finally dies alone.
“Even with the support and best efforts from the police officers in charge, we have still had to endure many delays. These delays have resulted in a 14-month wait for the trial and the sentence to finally be heard.”
They added: “During this time, John has shown no remorse for our mother or her family and friends.
“We are glad that today John O’Rourke has finally been found guilty of murdering our mum.
“We will always be shocked and perplexed that this has happened to such a lovely person.”
Detective Inspector Ian Ringrose of the major crime team, who led the investigation, said: “Amanda suffered a prolonged, vicious, inexplicable attack at the hands of John O’Rourke. “He has never offered any explanation for this completely inexplicable attack.
“Amanda was a well-respected and admired member of her local community and loved by family and friends.
“Hopefully now O’Rourke has been convicted they can start to rebuild their lives.”