A man has been jailed for more than two decades for the murder of a woman in Hackney.
Gavin Lewis, 41 (03.03.79) of no fixed address, appeared at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, 8 December, for sentencing for the murder of 44-year-old Sandra Samuels. He was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment.
Lewis had previously pleaded guilty at the same court on Friday, 4 December.
On Saturday, 31 August 2019 a family member contacted police out of concern for Sandra’s welfare.
Police attended her flat at Howard Road, N16 and forced entry.
Sandra was found inside the address. She was pronounced dead by paramedics at 15:58hrs.
A murder investigation was launched by homicide detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.
Detectives quickly discovered a CCTV camera on the landing outside Sandra’s flat had captured vital evidence regarding who had visited the address in the hours before her death.
The footage identified one person- Gavin Lewis.
CCTV captured him visiting Sandra’s flat at numerous times over the days leading up to her murder.
These visits were the prelude to the visit that would see Lewis attack Sandra, ending her life.
On the day of her death, CCTV footage showed Sandra carrying a large bunch of keys. She opened a gate and left her keys in the lock.
Lewis arrived at Sandra’s flat at 16:50hrs. By 16:52hrs he was inside Sandra’s flat. This is the last time Sandra was seen alive.
Lewis left Sandra’s flat after 19 minutes inside the address.
In these 19 minutes, Lewis launched a ferocious attack on Sandra, causing her multiple injuries. After fatally wounding her, he hid her body by covering her with items from around the flat.
A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head and torso.
When Lewis arrived at the flat he was wearing a black vest, but when he left he was bare chested, carrying a black hold-all and used the keys that Sandra had left in the lock to close the exterior gate.
He took the keys with him and these have never been recovered.
CCTV footage showed that between the last time Sandra was seen alive and the discovery of her body on Saturday, 31 August the only person she saw was Lewis.
After leaving Sandra’s flat, Lewis made his way to Gillet Square where he was captured on CCTV removing items from a holdall he left Sandra’s flat with before disposing of the bag itself.
Chillingly, friends of Sandra who also knew Lewis and saw him at Gillet Square, told the court investigation how Lewis appeared to be in a good mood.
At 20:05hrs Lewis boarded a northbound Route 76 bus from a nearby bus stop on Kingsland High Street.
While on the bus, on-board CCTV showed him making a phone call. The phone that he used to make that call was registered to Sandra Samuels.
Lewis then made his way to an address near to Stamford Hill Broadway. The same address where he was arrested for Sandra’s murder on Tuesday, 3 September.
At the address, officers discovered Sandra’s mobile phone and the trainers that Lewis wore on the night he killed her. The trainers were damp where Lewis had washed them in an attempt to cover his tracks, and had been left on a radiator to dry
Initially Lewis denied the murder, claiming that when he left the flat Sandra was alive and well.
He was charged with murder on Thursday, 5 September and was remanded for trial at the Old Bailey and on Friday, 4 December, where on day two of the trial, he pleaded guilty to murder.
Detective Sergeant Amjad Sharif, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command (Homicide), said: “Sandra was kind, friendly and popular. She had a group of family and friends who cared deeply for her and I hope that the sentence handed down today brings them a measure of comfort.
“The tragedy of Sandra’s death is that she opened up her home to Gavin Lewis and gave him a place to stay when he needed it.
“She had counted him as a friend, and Lewis repaid her kindness and friendship by attacking her in her own home.
“Following his arrest he attempted to divert the investigation toward Sandra’s ex-partner, but the CCTV evidence is damning. Lewis killed Sandra and locked the outside gate to prevent anyone else getting inside.
“Finally, I would like to commend the officers who meticulously watched the hundreds of hours of CCTV footage that was crucial in this case. The identification of those key pieces of footage provided the overwhelming evidence against Lewis that contributed greatly toward his conviction.”
A victim impact statement from Sandra's family said: "To those who have sat in court hearing this case she is just a name, Sandra, but to us she was so much more. Sandra was a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a cousin, a godmother, a niece and a provider. She was a loving mother to four children aged between 23 and eight years old and a grandmother to three aged just three, one and four months old, two of whom she never even got the chance to meet. The opportunity to be able to watch her grandchildren grow and be proud of them has been ripped away from her.
"She was a beautiful, kind hearted, loving person, often described as young at heart by her friends. She was generous and always willing to help others, even if it meant going without herself.
"Nothing we can say or do will ever bring Sandra back. We have a hole in our hearts, a void throughout the rest of our lives that will never be fulfilled. All we can now do is hope and pray that we as a family will be able to find some sort of closure to the awful event that has devastated our family's lives.
"Finally we can never forgive Gavin Lewis for taking Sandra away from our family."