A man was today jailed for life after pleading guilty to murdering his next door neighbour.

Brian Coote, 65, of High Street, Flamstead, was sentenced at Luton Crown Court after pleading guilty during a hearing yesterday.

Christine Ford, 71, was found dead by officers at Coote’s almshouse on July 27, 2019.

Her family had become concerned after not being able to contact her and come home from their holiday to try and find her.

They contacted police finding her home unlocked but without her inside.

The mother of two had suffered fatal stab wounds and an injury to her head, which are believed to have been caused two days before she was found.

An investigation was subsequently launched by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit and Coote was identified as the main suspect.

A manhunt was launched and he was arrested on July 29, having been hiding out in his car at locations including his nearby allotment for four days.

Investigations revealed that Coote had become frustrated at people habitually walking past his property to enter or exit their own, as entrance to the almshouses was gained by a communal path. He wrongly believed the area belonged to him.

He also wrote many letters to trustees complaining about Chris looking after her four grandchildren at her home.

Following a spell in hospital for treatment to self-inflicted injuries, Coote was charged with murder on August 2. He appeared before Hatfield Remand Court the following day, where he was remanded in custody.

His trial was originally scheduled to start on January 27.

Coote was jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years.

In a statement, Chris’s family said: “On behalf of all of Chris’s family we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, with special thanks to our family liaison officers Jo-Anne Kerr and Barry Townson, who have been a constant support to us.

"We do not know how we would have got through this without them. Also a special thank you to Justine Jenkins, who has led the investigation along with her team.

“We are relieved that this has come to a conclusion today, however it will never bring our beautiful mother Chris back; we miss her dearly every day.

“We will have to live with the truly horrific actions of Brian Coote for the rest of our lives, but we will do everything in our power to make sure that she isn’t remembered for the frenzied, brutal and cowardly way that Brian cut her life short. Instead we will endeavour to make sure she is remembered for the loving, caring, unassuming and beautiful person she was, and for how much joy she brought to so many people. We will keep her memory alive for her grandchildren that she adored, and whom adored her.

“As a family we will now start to rebuild our lives, but Chris will never be far from our thoughts."