A CONVICTED killer will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found guilty of murdering a mum-of-one.

Anthony Ayres launched a ferocious hammer attack on Kelly Pearce, 36, before stabbing her in the face and neck 40 times.

A jury of six men and six women unanimously returned the verdict after less than four hours of deliberations at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Ayres, of Fairlop Avenue, Canvey, gave a wry smile as the verdict was read out.

Miss Pearce’s friends and family gasped and shouted “yes” from the public gallery.

It is the second time Ayres, 49, has killed a woman.

He was jailed for a minimum of 19 years in 1994 for strangling his partner Dawn Wisdom to death when she told him she had aborted their child.

He was released on license in March 2012 and lived at Felmores bail hostel, in Pitsea, before moving to Canvey to be closer to his family.

He tried to sustain work as a gardener – a trade he learnt in prison – but soon became unemployed due to flooding on the island.

During sentencing, Justice Maura McGowan told Ayres she had no choice but to jail him for life.

Addressing him, she said: “Less than three years after you were released from prison you killed Kelly Pearce.

“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.

“She had a big heart and a warm and open personality.

“All that has gone.

“Her son grows up without a mother.

“The only sentence I can pass in accordance with the law is a whole life sentence.”

Ayres showed no emotion as he was led out of the dock and into the cells.

During the two-week trial, the court heard that witness Joseph Withers was locked out of his flat in Fairlop Avenue by Ayres, who then launched the frenzied attack on Miss Pearce in the bathroom.

Mr Withers said he was discussing borrowing money from Ayres when the killer suddenly “flipped”.

After he managed to get inside, he told the court he saw Ayres wielding a hammer.

Mr Withers fled the scene and called police.

When paramedics arrived at the scene, Miss Pearce was still breathing, but gasping for air.

Despite desperate efforts to save her life, she died in hospital from multiple injuries.

A manhunt was launched when Ayres made off.

He was arrested in Southend the next day after being spotted by an off-duty police officer.

He told them he was going to hand himself in anyway after a friend living in Basildon told him police were searching for him.

Ayres was wearing a blood-stained jumper and jeans.

He also had cuts to his hands, thought to be knife wounds.


Why was convicted killer free to murder again?

A REVIEW into how a dangerous killer was able to murder again should be launched, according to Essex’s police and crime commissioner.

Roger Hirst said work needed to be done to prevent convicted murderers from offending again after their release from prison in the wake of the guilty verdict.

He said: “As disclosed during the trial, Ayres had a history of committing acts of extreme violence.

“When Ayres was previously found guilty of murder in 1994, it was reported that the judge described him as representing a serious danger to women.

“His subsequent murder of Kelly in 2015 has highlighted the risks of releasing serious offenders on license and the challenges of properly monitoring them in the community.

“It is essential that all relevant agencies, including probation services, the police, local authorities and the NHS, work closely to prevent such tragedies from happening.

“Crucially, we need to understand why the monitoring arrangements put in place in this case were ineffective. A review of these procedures is needed.”

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to Kelly’s family.”


Roger Hirst - 'We need to prevent this happening again'

Ayres' history of violence

AS well as murdering his partner in 1993, Anthony Ayres had a string of previous convictions for violence against women.

Ayres was just 27 when he killed Dawn Wisdom after she told him she had aborted their unborn baby.

He saw red after she told him “I got rid of it because it’s yours.”

Her lifeless body was found by her devastated parents at her East London flat in September 1993.

Ayres claimed he was innocent, but was convicted of murder and jailed for life to serve a minimum of 19 years.

In 1988, he throttled his girlfriend to the point where she passed out.

A year later he strangled another girlfriend.

'Big-hearted and loving' Kelly is hugely missed

THE family of murdered Kelly Pearce told how their lives have been “shattered” since she was savagely beaten and stabbed to death.

After a jury found Anthony Ayres guilty of murder yesterday, prosecutor Cairns Nelson read out a statement from Kelly’s mum Lynn Wallings.

She said: “On November 19 2015, Kelly was cowardly and brutally murdered at the hands of Anthony Ayres.

“On that day my life and that of her family was shattered forever.

“Since her death I have found it difficult to smile or laugh or live with any sense of happiness.

“Part of my heart and life was taken too when she died.”

She added that she has regular nightmares and suffers from anxiety.

Kelly, who lived in North Avenue, Canvey, also left behind her stepdad Richard, who brought her up since she was 15-years-old, her sister Lisa and only son Josh.

Ms Wallings added: “Kelly loved Josh dearly and always referred to him as her ‘pride and joy.’ “Kelly was such a colourful person. She was beautiful, kind and caring.

“She was so big hearted, always finding the time for others despite struggling with her own mental health issues.”

Around 350 people attended Kelly’s funeral, with a tribute on the flowers reading: “A bright light has gone out on Canvey now we have lost Kelly.”

Ms Wallings said: “I have not only lost a daughter but a friend and a soulmate.

“Kelly had mental health problems and her addictions and demons, but deep down she was a very loving human.”


Trial - Chelmsford Crown Court

Defence tried to frame key witness

MURDERER Anthony Ayres tried to frame a drug user and paranoid schizophrenic as Kelly’s killer throughout his two week trial.

Ayres told Chelmsford Crown Court that he stumbled across Kelly, who was seriously injured, and held her as she drew her final breaths.

Giving evidence, he told the jury the brutal attack was carried out before he turned up at the flat where Joseph Withers lived.

According to defence barrister Oliver Saxby, Withers had a motive to kill Kelly, because she claimed he had raped her.

Mr Saxby said: “If Anthony Ayres is not the killer then a prime suspect would be the other person in the house – a paranoid schizophrenic.”

Mr Withers suffered psychotic episodes, which were exacerbated when he took drugs, and had previously threatened to use a knife.