A West Midlands couple have been found guilty of the brutal slaying of a 20-year-old woman with learning difficulties whose body was found half-naked and wrapped in a shower curtain under the couple's bed. Steven Beards was found guilty of the rape and murder of Susan Whiting and his wife Julie Beards, who also has learning difficulties, of Susan's manslaughter.
The court heard how Ms Whiting, from Walsall, who had become friends with Julie Beards through a local community centre they both attended, was killed in a sexually-motivated killing on 16 August 2015. She was drugged with Zoplicone, had a bag pulled over her head, and was tied up and raped before being battered to death with a hammer. Ms Whiting was reported missing by her mother on 17 August and the Beards said she left the house safe and well but her body was found under a divan bed at Julie's home in Bloxwich, Walsall on 18 August.
Steven Beards had denied murder and claimed to have no idea how his semen was found on the victim, even claiming someone else had put it inside her. He claimed he kept a sample of semen in the bathroom of the bungalow as he was thinking of becoming a sperm donor. His claims were rejected and he was sentenced to a minimum 33 years in prison. Julie Beards was convicted of manslaughter and will be sentenced later.
Steven Beards was said to be "a sexually motivated violent killer" who was attracted to vulnerable women. He had denied being attracted to Susan Whiting but referred to her as "Sexy Susan" on his mobile phone. When arrested, he was recorded in a police van telling his wife to take the rap for the killing.
Det Supt Mark Payne from West Midlands Police said: "Susan Whiting was a vulnerable young woman who lost her life at the hands of this pair, who betrayed her trust. The two have never given a reason why Susan was killed, but we believe the attack was pre-planned and sexually motivated."
Susan's mother Maureen Whiting was quoted by the BBC as saying: "She was just 20 years old, an easy-going, loving young lady, enjoying her life. I know she was loved and will be missed by so many people".