Girls’ football coach, 36, faces life in prison after she confessed to murder

A girls’ football coach who who finally confessed to bludgeoning a teenager to death in 2004 when she walked into a police station 14 years later because she could not live with the guilt has been jailed for life.

Karen Tunmore, 36, from Killingworth, North Tyneside, confessed in August to killing Scott Pritchard, 19, in Sunderland, smashing him over the head with a baseball bat in a row over money.

At Newcastle Crown Court Tunmore, who pleaded guilty to murder, was given a life sentence and told she must serve at least 17 and a half years before applying for parole.

Scott Pritchard

Scott Pritchard

Karen Tunmore

Karen Tunmore

Karen Tunmore, now 36, (right) bludgeoned to death Scott Pritchard, 19, (left) in Sunderland in January 2004. She has now been sentenced to life with a minimum of 17 years 

Mr Pritchard’s father Robert Stacey, known as Fred, was charged with murdering his own son and spent 16 weeks on remand before the case against him was dropped in 2005.

In a Victim Personal Statement read out at Newcastle Crown Court, Mr Stacey said people continued to shout abuse at him, even though he was cleared, and he was scared to walk around Sunderland city centre ‘for fear of being accused of a crime I did not commit’. 

Tunmore had a clean criminal record so was able to pass all the background checks for the FA job. She was suspended after news of the arrest came to light.

Parents of her pupils said she ‘disappeared’ in the early months of this year amid claims of a breakdown.

One called her ‘really enthusiastic and successful’, saying: ‘She managed to recruit so many kids and they’d get FA head bands and water bottles.’

‘She was never alone with the kids, but it’s still hard to come to terms with what she’s done,’ the parent told The Mirror.

The FA would not comment. 

Revealed: The true story behind Tunmore’s astonishing confession 

For almost 15 years she hid her murderous secret as the family she tore apart remained tortured.

Karen Tunmore sensationally confessed to one of the North East’s most mysterious unsolved murders out of the blue, 14 years after she battered teenager Scott Pritchard to death.

Now, as the 36-year-old from Killingworth is jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 and a half years, the detective that led the new probe into Scott’s murder has revealed the dramatic story behind Tunmore’s confession.

Tunmore (pictured in a mug shot) pleaded guilty to murder via a video link from prison at her first crown court appearance

Tunmore (pictured in a mug shot) pleaded guilty to murder via a video link from prison at her first crown court appearance

Tunmore (pictured in a mug shot) pleaded guilty to murder via a video link from prison at her first crown court appearance

And Det Chief Insp John Bent, of Northumbria Police, has told how the chilling details Tunmore gave about how she killed Scott convinced him she was telling the truth.

He said: ‘It’s so unusual, I don’t remember in my 24 years somebody walking into a police station and coughing to a murder.

‘There was no real trigger. She just said she couldn’t live with it any longer. She said it had been re-playing in her mind and she couldn’t deal with it anymore.

‘The details she has given on how she has assaulted him are quite chilling, and could have only been known to someone who was there.’

Scott was found fatally outside his home in Hendon, Sunderland, on the evening of January 7, 2004. The football fan had been using crutches at the time after injuring his leg.

The 19-year-old was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital, but his head injuries were so severe nothing could be done to save his life.

Scott’s death sparked one of the biggest murder probes in Wearside’s history.

Police took 350 statements, while thousands of leaflets and posters were distributed around Sunderland and 2,400 exhibits were collected.

Divers trawled the lake at Mowbray Park in a bid to find the murder weapon, but searches were fruitless.

Then 18 months after Scott’s death his dad, Robert Frederick Stacey who was known as Freddie, was charged with murder and remanded in custody.

But when the roofer – 52 at the time – appeared at crown court, senior prosecutor Kingsley Hyland offered no evidence and the case was dropped.

Police made repeated appeals to the Hendon community to shop the ‘cowardly’ killer or killers.

Yet the breakthrough they hoped for did not come until two months ago.

Det Chief Insp Bent was Northumbria Police’s on call senior investigating officer (SIO) when Tunmore turned up at Middle Engine Lane in Wallsend.

And he explained how the football coach was persuaded to go to police by a colleague, after telling him that she was responsible for the murder.

‘Some time between 10pm and 11pm, I was on call and Karen Tunmore turns up at Middle Engine Lane station. She came in with a work friend,’ said Det Chief Insp Bent.

‘I remember getting the phone call at home and it was one of those ‘really?’ kind of moments.’

In police interviews, Tunmore told officers she had been haunted by the events of January 7, 2004 ever since and decided to tell someone because she could no longer live with herself.

Detectives initially kept an open mind about whether Tunmore, who had no links to Scott or Sunderland, was telling the truth.

Det Chief Insp Bent said: ‘She was known to the police but had never featured in this investigation whatsoever, which is perhaps not unusual because she had no links whatsoever to Hendon.

‘She’s from Killingworth and was completely unknown to Scott’s family and friends, they had never heard of her.

‘The link back to the job appears to be, from her account, that she met a guy called ‘Steve’ or ‘Ste’, who was a member of the Hendon Mad Dogs, a particularly violent gang of individuals.

‘He was owed money by Scott Pritchard, and she was owed money by Ste, so she travelled down to Sunderland with him to get the money. She doesn’t know who Pritchard is.

‘They stop and speak to him. He goes into his home address, comes out and says he’s got no money. She said she had ‘seen red’. She had taken a baseball bat and lays into him.

‘She would say she was very violent when she was drunk, and that is why she stopped drinking. She had consumed a number of alcopops that were popular at the time, Blu Wkd etc.

‘She said the bat was in the car for protection purposes, but she did not say it was premeditated.’

Tunmore was able to give detectives ‘chilling detail’ about the injuries she inflicted on Scott, and this is what convinced them she was telling the truth.

‘Her demeanour in interview was very upset and very distressed,’ said Det Chief Insp Bent. ‘The interviewing officers were convinced she was telling the truth.

‘She was responsibly respectful. She was involved in football coaching so she would have been vetted. She would say that she stopped drinking as a result and members of her family backed that up. 

‘There is nothing I have come across at all that rules her out. I have found nothing that would say she hasn’t done it.’

Scott lived at home with his mum Kathleen and younger siblings Brett and Melanie. He was single, but very well-known around Hendon where he had a wide group of friends.

He loved playing football and snooker and was a devoted Sunderland AFC and England fan.

Scott was unemployed when we was killed, but had been trying to find work and had visited the job centre on the day he was attacked.

Det Chief Insp Bent said the case is one of the most unusual murder investigations he has worked on.

‘It’s a strange job, it’s been detected, but not solved, and it wasn’t as a result of our work,’ he said.

‘The satisfaction for ourselves is from the family’s perspective. They have had some kind of justice. They have been very supportive and we are very thankful for that.’

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