A BLACK widow who arranged for one of her ex-boyfriends to kill another will spend at least 17 years in jail.

Rebecca Ryan, of Hilltop Rise, Weeley, planned a brutal attack on carer Michael Beckwith, 44, with besotted former partner Scott Swift.

Ryan, 22, and Swift, 27, were both given life sentences for the murder of Mr Beckwith who was hit on the head 17 times with various weapons on July 31 last year in Barrack Lane, Harwich.

Ryan will serve at least 17 in jail while Swift will serve a minimum of 24 years after they were found guilty of murder following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Passing sentence Judge Charles Gratwicke said: “Michael Beckwith stood no chance as the life was battered out of him.

“He had done you, Swift, no harm at all and had the misfortune he had at some stage replaced you in the affections of Ryan.

“You Ryan, had been involved in a relationship with Mr Beckwith which had come to an end but it is clear he wanted to get back together with you.

“The two of you arranged for him to be attacked and this was not a spur of the moment incident.

“Having got into Mr Beckwith’s car you Ryan, told him where you wanted to go, all the while texting Swift about the progress of the journey.

“He was inadvertently driving himself to his death in the trap you had set for him.”

Swift, of Station Road, Dovercourt, recruited then 17-year-old Joseph Smith to help with the attack – a boy he had befriended and then tortured.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Jailed: Joseph Smith was sentenced to 12 years

Smith, of Canning Street, Harwich, who is now 18, admitted manslaughter during the trial and was cleared of murder.

He was sentenced to 12 years.

Husband and wife Triston and Enderlein Biddlecombe, both of East Street, Harwich, tried to cover up the horrific attack.

Both were convicted of assisting offenders by washing clothes belonging to the attackers and perverting the course of justice by providing Swift with a false alibi.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Enderlein and Triston Biddlecombe attempteded to cover up the horrific attack

They were cleared of assisting offenders by burning clothes.

Triston, 24, and Enderlein, 20, both received two-and-a-half years in prison. 

They were given three months in jail each for assisting an offender and two-and-a-half years for perverting the course of justice to run concurrently.

Senior investigating officer Al Pitcher said after the hearing: "This was a pre-planned, violent, cowardly attack that led to Michael sadly losing his life.

"Ryan's role was to deliver him to the remote location, where Swift and Smith lay in wait, disguised and armed with metal bars.

"They set about beating Michael repeatedly in a horrendous attack.

"The Biddlecombes attempted to shield Swift from justice by providing him a false alibi and washing blood-stained clothing in an effort to mislead the police.

"I am pleased with the sentences handed down today and while nothing will bring Michael back, I hope they will bring some comfort to the family, who have been left devastated by the actions of the defendants.

"I would like to thank the family for the restraint and dignity they have shown throughout this case. I also want to thank the witnesses who had the courage to come to court and give evidence, and all those involved in the investigation and trial."

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Murder scene: The spot where Michael Beckwith's body was found

Mr Beckwith's family said: "Michael’s murder has taken everything away from us. 

"A son from a mother who could not take the strain of the trial and passed away from a heart attack just before it started. An uncle from a nephew he never got to see grow into a young man. A cousin who we all could share a laugh with and knew we could turn to if we needed help. And a friend who was greatly loved and respected by all.

"Michael had a heart as big as the world. He would do anything to help anybody; he was compassionate, caring and loved life. He had a good job and this work suited Michael’s caring and gentle nature.

"He was a good, honest man who enjoyed life,  especially his fishing and his beloved West Ham football team, and come November 5, his little fireworks display.

"We were first told that Michael had been beaten and taken to hospital with serious injuries but hoped that he would, with time, make a full recovery.

"But then we received the call to say that he had died and that there would now be a murder investigation.

"The word 'murder' is something you read about in the papers, that happens to other people or you see dramatised in soaps or on TV. 

"It was incomprehensible that our  Michael had been murdered. 

"We know how it affected Iris, his mum. She was inconsolable and deep down we don’t think she had taken it all in. 

"We have lost two people from one side of the family through the actions of others.

"How anyone can take the life of another is incomprehensible but we as a family will always remember Michael as he was - a happy man who would give you the shirt off his back and always had a cheeky smile that was infectious, even if you were feeling down."