The family of Sharon Butler say “she will never be forgotten” as her brother has been sentenced to life in prison for her murder.

Sharon, who was 64, was found unconscious at the home of her brother, Kevin Shepherd, in Whitehouse Meadows, Eastwood, on the evening of Tuesday November 7 last year.

Fifty-five year-old Shepherd had called 999 shortly after 9pm claiming he’d fought with her and she was unconscious.

When police arrived they found Sharon seriously injured in Shepherd’s garden and covered with a tarpaulin.

Close to where Sharon’s body was found, officers discovered a knife stabbed into a plant pot.

Echo: Sentenced to life - Kevin ShepherdSentenced to life - Kevin Shepherd (Image: Essex Police)

Despite the best efforts of paramedics, she was declared dead at the scene and Shepherd was arrested.

He was later charged with her murder and was due to stand trial last week but, ahead of the trial, he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on Tuesday.

He was sentenced to life in prison at Basildon Crown Court today, and must spend a minimum of 13 years and 6 months behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

In a tribute, Sharon’s family said: “Our world has been shattered by the loss of our loving daughter and sister. Our lives will never be the same without her.

“She never will be forgotten and will be forever in our hearts.

“The family ask for privacy at this difficult time.”

Detective Chief Inspector Terry Balding, who lead the investigation, said: “My thoughts, and those of my team, are with Sharon’s friends and family today.

“I know that no sentence will change what has happened but I hope it will help them move forward.

“Kevin Shepherd took the life of his sister in a horrendous attack and I am glad we have been able to bring him to justice.

“I also want to thank my team for their professionalism and dedication throughout this complex and sensitive investigation.”