Hitman jailed for life for Surrey housewife murder

Image caption, Detectives traced Cryne to Thailand's expatriate community and extradited him to face trial

A hitman has been jailed for life for murdering a housewife in her Surrey home on behalf of her ex-husband.

Sharon Birchwood, 52, of Ashtead, was found strangled and trussed up with parcel tape in Ashtead in 2007.

Expatriate Paul Cryne, 62, who flew to the UK from Thailand to carry out the killing for a £30,000 fee, was convicted at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

He was told by Judge Jeremy Roberts that he would serve a minimum of 28 years and six months in jail.

'Physical suffering'

Judge Roberts added: "Sharon was murdered in a particularly unpleasant and personal way in what should have been the safety and security of her own home.

Image caption, Sharon Birchwood was registered disabled and walked with a stick

"One can only imagine the mental and physical suffering she must have undergone in the last few minutes of her life while you tightened that electrical cable around her neck until she was dead."

He added: "You may well spend the rest of your life behind bars.

"If you do, I am afraid that will be the consequence of your own actions."

Cryne, who had denied murder, was extradited from Thailand to face trial at the Old Bailey.

'Pot of gold'

The jury was told Cryne, who was originally from Manchester and had lived in Devon, had built up debts of £11,000 and was hired by Graham Birchwood to kill his ex-wife.

Birchwood, 54, was also £150,000 in debt and stood to gain a £475,000 "pot of gold" from her death.

He was jailed for life in June 2009 after being convicted of murder at Croydon Crown Court and told he would serve at least 32 years in prison.

Birchwood and Cryne met in Thailand where both were members of the expatriate community.

Judge Roberts said the pair were in it together but he had reduced Cryne's sentence to reflect time he had spent in custody in the UK and in Thailand.

The court heard Mrs Birchwood, who walked with a stick, was found with her ankles and wrists tightly bound together in December 2007.

In 2005 Cryne was cleared of murdering Robert Henry, a British national who was shot six times, after the prosecution witnesses failed to turn to the Thai court.

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