St Ives killer sentenced to life in prison

KILLER John Mearns has today been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of St Ives mum Pauline Smith.

He was described as “self-centred and emotionally needy” during sentencing at Cambridge Crown Court by Judge Anthony Bate, who said Mearns would serve a minimum of 14 years before being eligible for parole.

Mearns, 54, was convicted of killing Mrs Smith on June 1 after a 10-day trial.

In sentencing Mearns, Judge Bate said: “There was no evidence of planning or premeditation.

“The surprise and speed of the assault meant Pauline had no opportunity to defend herself before she was overpowered. You knelt on Pauline’s stomach as she lay on the bed and applied sustained manual pressure to her neck. By then, you had formed the intent to kill her.”

He added: “In the aftermath of the killing you showed yourself to be a fluent and resourceful liar.”

Judge Bate said the impact of Mrs Smith’s death on her children was “profound”.

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He said: “Her children have lost the support of their mother… The pain of her loss is profound.”

The jury that convicted Mearns earlier this month had heard during the trial how he called an ambulance to Mrs Smith’s home in Gainsborough Drive on October 27 to report he had been stabbed and feared his partner was dead.

Mearns later changed his story, admitting he had stabbed himself, but still claimed he had unwittingly caused her death while trying to restrain her and prevent her from attacking him. A post mortem confirmed Mrs Smith had died as a result of being strangled.

Detective Chief Inspector George Barr, who led the investigation, said: “Mearns has taken a mother from her children and this is something they, and their family, will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

“I hope today’s sentence brings them some comfort knowing that justice has been done.”