Gareeca Gordon, 28, (pictured) murdered Phoenix Netts, also 28, at the property where they both lived in Birmingham on April 16 last year
This is the horrifying moment police discovered the partially burned torso of 28-year-old Phoenix Netts in suitcase after her women’s refuge housemate stabbed her and dismembered her body with a circular saw.
Gareeca Gordon, 28, murdered Miss Netts at the refuge where they both lived in
Gordon stabbed Miss Netts four times, causing fatal injuries, before cutting her body into six parts with a circular saw she bought on Gumtree for £45.
Miss Netts was the granddaughter of music photographer Barrie Wentzell, who captured stars such as Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles in their prime.
Bodycam footage captures police arresting Gordon near Coleford in the Forest of Dean at about 11pm on May 12 last year, with officers finding her beside a quarry late at night.Nearby were two large suitcases.
Gordon tries to delay officers from opening the bags as they warn her she faces being ‘arrested for obstruction’ in the clip, released by West Midlands Police.
Gordon is heard saying: ‘I don’t want to stop you guys’, to which police say ‘you are stopping us’ as they guide her away from the case.
Officers block Gordon’s path to the suitcase as one officer opens it.
A sharp exhale of breath is heard before the officer exclaims: ‘What the f***.
Other CCTV footage shows Gordon dragging Miss Netts’ dismembered body in a suitcase outside the refuge.
Gordon stabbed Phoenix Netts (pictured) four times, causing fatal injuries, before cutting her body into six parts with a circular saw she bought on Gumtree for £45
This is the horrifying moment police discovered the partially burned torso of 28-year-old Miss Netts in suitcase after her women’s refuge housemate stabbed her and dismembered her body with a circular saw
Gordon (pictured) tries to delay officers from opening the bags as they warn her she faces being ‘arrested for obstruction’ in the clip, released by West Midlands Police
Other CCTV footage shows Gordon dragging Miss Netts’ dismembered body in a suitcase outside the refuge
Revealed: Tragic past of ‘torso in the woods’ victim Phoenix Netts
Phoenix Netts was stabbed and dismembered by Gareeca Gordon, 28, at the women’s refuge where they both lived.
Miss Netts had previously ended her dream of becoming a paramedic after dropping out of university and falling into drugs, as revealed by MailOnline.
Miss Netts’ former boyfriend – speaking exclusively to MailOnline – said the 28-year-old was ‘always vulnerable and easy to exploit’ after her troubled youth, when she was raped by a drug dealer, and believed it was her fragility that led her to a refuge.
Her ex-boyfriend Joe, who asked for his surname to be withheld and speaking from his new base in Toronto, Canada, said: ‘She seemed damaged and rightly so.
‘We went out while we were at Canterbury Christ Church University and she was there between 2009 and 2011, but she didn’t graduate.
‘She told me and one other friend of hers that she had been raped by a drug dealer.
‘Phoenix was kind and quiet, but also vulnerable. She didn’t have a great childhood after her parents had split up.
‘She used to love Louis Theroux documentaries and I remember her joking about getting a T-shirt saying “We’re gonna get Theroux this.”‘
Before university Miss Netts fell into drugs and dated a dealer, regularly smoking marijuana before she started taking acid, cocaine and MDMA.
Joe said: ‘I was ignorant to peoples’ mental health at the time, so I wouldn’t have been able to analyse then as I can now. But she seemed damaged, and rightly so, by the trauma she went through.
‘I don’t know which way her life went after we split up, but it clearly went south. She never expressed any interest in kids or getting married.
‘Phoenix mostly lived in the past and a little in the moment. She spent the majority of the time stoned. She barely ate anything. I am not sure if that was linked to post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘She was vulnerable and clearly experienced the dark side of the world that not many people would realise is there.
‘But she still showed compassion and empathy to others.’
Sentencing Gordon to life with a minimum term of 23 years and six months at Bristol Crown Court, judge Mrs Justice Cutts described Miss Netts as a ‘deeply loved’ person.
She said Miss Netts was planning to move back to live with her parents in London at the time of her death but had been delayed by coronavirus restrictions.
‘Her future was looking bright, shining and promising. A fresh start was ahead of her,’ the judge told Gordon.
‘You robbed her of that fresh start. You took her from the supportive parents who loved and cherished her.’
Miss Netts’ father Mark told of his ‘indescribable anguish’ and said their lives had ‘irreversibly changed’ after his daughter’s death.
Her mother Saskia described herself as ‘forever devastated, forever empty’.
The judge said that days before the murder, Gordon had ‘demanded sex’ from Miss Netts and became physically aggressive, pushing her around the room, when she refused.
‘That sexual interest continued into the April, when Miss Netts told another friend that your behaviour was scaring her,’ she said.
‘There’s no doubt you were pressing Miss Netts for sex in the days and weeks leading up to the murder.’
Gordon was arrested near Coleford in the Forest of Dean at about 11pm on May 12 last year, with officers finding her beside a quarry late at night.
Nearby were two large suitcases containing a charred torso and other body parts identified by DNA as Miss Netts.
On April 7, Miss Netts sent a text message to a friend stating: ‘There’s a girl here who keeps asking me to be sexual.
‘I think I’m going to move back to London. It’s scaring me lol.’
Andrew Smith QC told Bristol Crown Court that Gordon made a call to the Samaritans on April 9, in which she appeared ‘tipsy’.
‘The clear focus of the call was Ms Gordon describing that she liked another woman and wanting to have sex with her,’ Mr Smith said.
‘At one stage Ms Gordon said either that her loins were warming up or were hot.’
The last known contact Miss Netts had was a phone call with a friend in the early hours of April 16. He attempted to ring her back that afternoon but did not get through.
Police believe she died that day and was killed in the property where both women lived.
Miss Netts suffered four stab wounds to the front of her torso.
Mr Smith said: ‘The precise time which the stab injuries were caused is not known.’
He told the court that another woman living in the shared accommodation with Miss Netts and Gordon heard noises of drilling and banging, as well as shouts of ‘help me, help me’, on April 16.
Phoenix Netts, 28, is believed to have loud rows with Gareeca Gordon at the hostel where she had been living for a number of months
Miss Netts was a keen horse rider as a child, as well as being fond of drama, and was an academic who did well at school
Police discovered Miss Netts’ remains beside a quarry near Coleford, Gloucestershire, in the Forest of Dean, on May 12
Miss Netts’ (pictured) father Mark told of his ‘indescribable anguish’ and said their lives had ‘irreversibly changed’ after his daughter’s death
Catching a killer: How police snared murderer Gareeca Gordon
Gareeca Gordon, 28, stabbed Phoenix Netts, also 28, to death in the property where they both lived in Birmingham on April 16 last year.
Within 24 hours of the murder, Gordon had ordered a circular saw and began to dismember the body of Miss Netts in the victim’s room.
She began using the mobile phone of Miss Netts to contact her family and friends for up to four weeks, telling them she was safe and well.
CCTV footage shows Gordon buying ‘substantial amounts of detergent’ and police searching the room found the carpet, bed and clothing had been taken out.
Gordon disposed of around 15 bags of rubbish from the room and contacted the housing provider, pretending to be Miss Netts, asking for all other property to be removed.
The killer used multiple forms of transport to move the body of Miss Netts – initially in two suitcases – from Birmingham to a location in West Bromwich.
She stored the body there for a ‘number of days’ before hiring a taxi to transport the suitcases to the Forest of Dean and the Coleford area of Gloucestershire.
Miss Netts’ remains were stored within the Forest of Dean for weeks, with Gordon taking both trains and taxis between there and Birmingham.
Investigations have established that Gordon also stayed in Coleford for a number of days through that period, including living rough for a period of time.
On April 27, she went to Coleford police station and asked for help charging a mobile phone and returning back to Birmingham.
Gordon purchased a petrol can from a station in Birmingham on May 10, which she filled with petrol on May 12 and travelled to Coleford with it.
Police believe she tried to set fire to Miss Netts’ body that evening.
But this failed, causing Gordon to put the body parts back in the suitcases before making arrangements for her to be picked up and potentially taken to an area of Wales – where police believe Miss Netts’ body would have remained.
Internet searches identified that Gordon had looked at buying acid to dispose of the remains, as well as how to set fire to the body so she could ‘never ever be identified as responsible for this horrific crime’.
A fire investigation dog deployed to the Forest of Dean identified one location where an accelerant had been used, which was later confirmed by soil samples that were analysed by scientists.
A camp had been set up nearby where Miss Netts’ body had been kept and where her remains were set on fire.
On May 12, Gloucestershire Police arrested Gordon after a member of the public reported a vehicle being driven in the Coleford area, when coronavirus restrictions meant all but essential travel was forbidden.
Officers identified that Gordon lived in Birmingham and discovered Ms Netts had disappeared from the same property, which was out of character.
None of Ms Netts’ family or friends had previously contacted police with concerns about her welfare.
Following the murder, Gordon purchased a circular saw on Gumtree for £45 and it was delivered to the property shortly before 11am on April 17.
Mr Smith said the post-mortem examination found the saw was used to dismember the body of Miss Netts when it was either clothed or partially clothed.
‘Dismemberment took place at five different locations of the body, dividing the body into six parts,’ he told the court.
After the murder, Gordon tried to cover her tracks with a series of ‘detailed, organised actions’.
She contacted her victim’s friends and family with texts, emails and voice calls pretending to be her, giving the impression that Miss Netts was still alive and moving to London.
She downloaded an audio application which allowed her to edit some voice messages of Miss Netts which she sent via social media platforms to a number of people.
Detective Superintendent Scott Griffiths, of West Midlands Police’s homicide team, described Gordon’s actions as ‘calculated’.
He said: ‘Gareeca even went onto the internet and downloaded an audio application which enabled her to edit some voice messages of Phoenix, to send those via social media platforms to a number of people, which confirmed that she was well and that she was alive.
‘Gareeca then purchased industrial detergents and utilised local rubbish collection companies to take all evidential opportunities from Phoenix’s room, and dispose of them.
‘This resulted in us coming across a very cleansed scene and no overt signs that a homicide, let alone a dismemberment of a body, had occurred in the room of Phoenix Netts.’
Miss Netts’ phone was used by Gordon to make internet searches including ‘how to fix punctured lung’, ‘internal bleeding’ and ‘can someone recover from getting stabbed’ between 1.04pm and 3.07pm on April 16.
Justice Cutts described Gordon as a ‘very dangerous young woman’, adding: ‘You stabbed her four times.
‘None of these wounds would have been fatal had you called for help.’
She said that a post-mortem examination showed Ms Netts would have survived for a ‘number of hours’ after being stabbed by Gordon.
‘You were aware that she was seriously injured and may not recover but yet you did nothing about it,’ the judge said.
‘She must have been very frightened in those hours before she died.’
Justice Cutts said the ‘considerable physical and mental suffering’ inflicted upon Miss Netts by not calling for help aggravated the offence.
She said Gordon had gone to ‘considerable efforts’ to dispose of the remains of Ms Netts and to pretend she was still alive in ‘cold and calculated’ messages to her friends and family.
‘You impersonated Ms Netts in a substantial number of WhatsApp messages to her mother, including requests for money,’ the judge told Gordon.
‘You impersonated her in messages. You noted expressions that Ms Netts used by listening to audio files Ms Netts had on her phone.’
The judge said the murder was not accompanied by sexual acts and was not premeditated.
Gordon had no previous convictions, apart from two offences of shoplifting.
She had been diagnosed with a personality disorder as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Justice Cutts told Gordon that her personality disorder may explain ‘in part’ why she killed Ms Netts but it had not “distorted” reality for her at the time.
Pictures emerged last year of Miss Netts (left) with a friend from university who said she was ‘such a lovely person’ who ‘would give you her last penny’
Timeline of the murder of Phoenix Netts
February – Phoenix Netts tells a friend Gordon demanded sex after she asked the defendant for money. Gordon becomes “physical and aggressive” when she says no.
March 31 to April 6 – Ms Netts tells a friend in a series of messages that Gordon is still sexually interested in her.
April 7 – Ms Netts tells a different friend she is thinking of returning to London as Gordon is continuing to ask for sex.
April 11 – Gordon telephones the Samaritans charity and discloses there is a woman she wants to have sex with.
April 16 – Ms Netts is murdered at her shared accommodation in Salisbury Road, Lozells, Birmingham, by Gordon. Ms Netts speaks to a friend on the phone at 3.28am and two hours later a fellow resident hears her saying “help me, help me”. The resident later hears noises of drilling and banging.
April 17 – Gordon buys a circular saw for £45 from Gumtree. Ms Netts’s body is dismembered and Gordon makes ‘substantial’ efforts to clean her victim’s room and remove bloodstained clothing and furniture. Gordon creates a new email address for Ms Netts.
April 18 – Gordon begins to send messages to friends and family implying Ms Netts is still alive.
April 20 – The killer pays a man to remove a bloodstained mattress and black bags from the address in Salisbury Road.
April 21 – Gordon pays for more black bin bags to be taken away.
April 25 – She pays Mahesh Sorathiya to drive her to Gloucestershire with suitcases containing Ms Netts’s body.
April 27 – Gordon is in Coleford town centre with a bicycle. She later travels by bus to Gloucester bus station and takes a train to Birmingham.
April 30 – She buys a train ticket from Birmingham to Coleford. That afternoon she travels by taxi from Hereford to Coleford with a fold-up bicycle.
May 2 – Gordon returns by train to Birmingham.
May 10 – She buys a petrol can and pays Mr Sorathiya to drive her to Coleford.
May 11 – Mr Sorathiya picks up Gordon from outside a quarry near Coleford. She only has her bike with her. He takes her back to Birmingham.
May 12 – Gordon buys petrol in Birmingham and makes internet searches about the Brecon Beacons.
At around 5pm Mr Sorathiya picks up Gordon and drives her back to Gloucestershire. Gordon attempts to set fire to Ms Netts’s remains in woodland.
At 10.30pm police officers see Mr Sorathiya’s car parked in a layby close to the quarry and speak to him. The officers see two suitcases on the side of the road and see Mr Sorathiya drive past slowly.
At 11.05pm Gordon is seen standing near the quarry with the two suitcases and police notice a burning smell. She is arrested after body parts are found in the suitcases.
Mrs Justice Cutts said: ‘Gareeca Gordon for the murder of Phoenix Netts I sentence you to life imprisonment.
‘You will serve a minimum term of 23 years and six months. Thereafter, it will be for the parole board to decide when, if ever, you should be released.
‘If you are ever released, you will remain on licence for the rest of your life.’
The judge paid tribute to the family of Ms Netts for the dignity they showed throughout the court proceedings.
Police forensic investigations focused on the hostel, a nearby cemetery and locations in the Forest of Dean, 80 miles away.
The court heard Gordon made a number of trips to the Forest of Dean and attempted to burn the remains of Miss Netts in woodland there.
Forensic examinations of Miss Netts’ room found the bed, mattress, carpet and underlay had been removed but blood staining was found in the living area, kitchen and shower, Mr Smith said.
The circular saw used to dismember the body of Miss Netts was discovered in Gordon’s room.
Mr Smith said ‘handwritten plans and notes concerned with her removing the body from Coleford and moving it to Wales to burn further’ were also found in the room.
Police described the killing as ‘really calculated’ and ‘extremely thought through in relation to planning’.
Miss Netts grew up the capital, born in Croydon to parents Mark and Saskia.
The 28-year-old – who had hoped to become a paramedic – led a troubled life, dropping out of university and battling drug and mental health problems before ending up at the women’s refuge.
Gordon and Ms Netts first met when Gordon moved into the Birmingham property around six months before the murder.
When asked what the motive for the murder was, Detective Superintendent Griffiths said that Gordon and Ms Netts had a friendship of sorts as they were living in the same place.
‘It is apparent that Gareeca wanted more than a friendship,’ he said.
‘That she wanted a sexual relationship with Phoenix and Phoenix didn’t want any kind of sexual relationship with Gareeca.
‘That is supported by letters and notes recovered.
‘Phoenix confided in close friends that there is this unhealthy relationship that Gareeca was trying to form and that she didn’t want any part of it.
‘The fact she was even thinking of returning to London due to how uneasy she felt due to the contact that she was having with Gareeca Gordon.’
Miss Netts was a keen horse rider as a child, as well as being fond of drama, and was an academic who did well at school.
She studied at the University of Kent for a number of years before getting a job and starting a relationship, which led to her moving from London to Birmingham – a city which she loved.
‘The impact on the family is significant,’ Mr Griffiths said.
‘I have spent a considerable amount of time with them, as a result of this incident, this has really traumatised them.
‘The impact can never be lost on anybody who loses somebody through a homicide, but especially so in circumstances like this.’
Andrew Langdon QC, representing Gordon, today said her mother had written a letter to the judge saying she was ‘eternally sorry’ for what her daughter had done.
In the letter, she described Gordon as a ‘ticking timebomb’ at the time of the murder due to her mental state and a lack of support.
The court heard Gordon was born in Jamaica and moved to England aged seven, living initially with an aunt before her mother joined her.
She is understood to have been raised in north London, attending an all-girls’ state school.
Police pictured searching the woodland in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, where the girl’s charred and dismembered body was found in suitcases last year
Phoenix, above, grew up in Croydon, south London and later moved to the Midlands where an aunt lived. It is believed she moved into the women’s refuge at the end of 2019
Police, pictured in woodland next to Stowfield Quarry in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, searched the area for several days looking for evidence during the investigation
Police launched a major operation after discovering the suitcases containing body parts. A court heard how the killer returned to the forest four times
Mr Langdon said Gordon was later ‘exploited by a man who turned her into a sex worker’ and was in an abusive relationship.
Assessments carried out on Gordon following the murder found she has a personality disorder, has a low tolerance to frustration and struggles with perceived rejection, the court heard.
Her mother wrote: ‘Gareeca is not a bad person at heart. If given the right environment and support, she can start to understand her condition and become more aware of how to manage it.’
Mr Langdon said the murder had not involved sexual conduct – as Gordon had not assaulted Miss Netts during the incident – and was not planned nor premeditated.
While her guilty plea spared Miss Netts’s family the trauma of having to hear detailed evidence about her death, relatives say they are struggling to cope.
Prosecutor Mr Smith – referring to victim personal statements from Miss Netts’ mother and father – said: ‘Both statements speak of the profound, understandable and enduring loss experienced through the loss of a much-loved daughter with whom they expected to share the next chapter of her life.’
Forensic tents, pictured. The quarry is on Staunton Road and the closed section also contains a fishery, a former sawmill which now contains storage units, several houses and a campsite
He told the court that the pain experienced by the family was ‘exacerbated by the knowledge of the manner of her death and the defendant impersonating her’.
Her father Mark said in his statement: ‘Our lives have been irreversibly changed and the anguish is indescribable’.
The court heard her mother Saskia described herself as ‘forever devastated, forever empty’.
It understood that after a spell living with an aunt in the Midlands, Miss Netts moved to the hostel in Birmingham at the end of 2019.
Neighbour Wahidur Rahman said: ‘We didn’t know her well – all the women in the refuge kept themselves to themselves. They were all vulnerable in a way. But she would always say hello and ask ‘how are you?’ She was a pretty young girl.’
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