A MAN has been found guilty of murdering a mum-of-one on Canvey.

Anthony Ayres, 49, has been convicted by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court today.

The six men and six men returned a unanimous verdict after under four hours of deliberations.

Kelly Pearce, 36, who grew up on the island, was attacked with a hammer and stabbed in the face at a flat in Fairlop Avenue in November.

Ayres, already a convicted killer after strangling his girlfriend in 1993, had denied murdering Miss Pearce.

As the guilty verdict was announced, Ayres gave a wry smile and gasps were heard from Miss Pearce's family and friends in the public gallery.

Judge Maura McGowan QC has sentenced Ayres to a whole life sentence in prison for his second murder.

During sentencing, she told Ayres: "You took a knife and a hammer to the flat where you knew she was.

"You set about an attack of extraordinary brutality, which in my view amounted to sadism.

"Kelly's addiction to hard drugs had blighted her life in recent years but all of the witnesses we have heard from said she was fun and kind and had a big heart and a warm and open personality.

"All that has gone."

Senior investigating officer, DI Steve Ellis, said: "Ayres is a dangerous individual who brutally attacked Miss Pearce, inflicting horrendous injuries. I would like to thank the family for their patience as we sought to locate Ayres and successfully bring him to justice.

"While the verdict cannot bring Kelly back I hope this brings them a form of closure to their tragic loss.”

Kelly’s mother, Lynne Wallings and her partner, Richard said: "Kelly was a colourful character, who made an impression on everyone she met. She was loved dearly by her friends and family and she showed us so much love and kindness back. 

"Kelly will be missed by her mum Lynn, step father Richard, son Josh, Sister Lisa and all her family. We know nothing can bring her back. The verdict today was the right one, at least now Kelly can rest in peace knowing that Anthony Ayres will be sent to prison for the rest of his life. 

"We would like to thank Essex Police and the investigation team, for all they have done throughout this horrific ordeal to get justice for Kelly. We would also personally like to thank the first responders, the police and the paramedics who tried their hardest to save Kelly. Their efforts will never be forgotten. Lastly, thanks to Cairns Nelson and Peter Gair for prosecuting Kelly’s case and getting justice. 

"Now the court case is over, we would like to try to move on with our lives, to remember the happy times with Kelly and to grieve our loss. We respectfully request that we are left to grieve in private.”