A man has been jailed for life with a minimum of 23 years after pleading guilty to the murder of Sabrina Cooper, in Eastbourne.

Tony King, 60, of Cornfield Terrace, Eastbourne, appeared at Hove Crown Court on Friday (23 June) to be sentenced after he had admitted at a hearing last month to killing 68-year-old Sabrina just before Christmas last year. He also pleaded guilty to possession of a knife in a public place.

The court heard that police and paramedics were called to her home in Connaught Road around 6.45pm on Sunday, December 18. It was initially thought that she had suffered a medical episode following a recent operation, but it was quickly established that she had suffered five stab wounds to her torso, which resulted in her death.

A review of her phone suggested recent contact with King, who was an acquaintance, and he was arrested at his home on suspicion of her murder in the early hours of the following morning. Crime scene examiners found blood-stained clothing in a washing machine and in the lounge of the one-bedroom flat.

During interview, King admitted to Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team officers that he had murdered Sabrina and provided further information that led to the recovery of a single-edged kitchen knife, which was subsequently identified as the murder weapon.

Detective Chief Inspector Alex Campbell, senior investigating officer, said: “Our thoughts are with Sabrina’s family and friends who were shocked at this senseless and apparently motiveless murder.

“King admitted the offence in interview soon after he was arrested, but subsequently pleaded not guilty to murder at court hearings in December and April, unnecessarily extending the process for those grieving her death.

“I would like to acknowledge the professional and thorough work of my colleagues in bringing about the early arrest in the case and for their dedication in bringing the investigation to this conclusion.”

Sabrina’s family said: “Today we remember Sabrina who was so viciously taken away from us just before Christmas last year. We remember her as a loving daughter, a sister, a mother and grandmother. As a dog lover she became a popular member of the local community of Eastbourne where she proudly ran Coopers Magic Shop for many years. She leaves a huge whole in the hearts of all that knew her.

“We welcome the sentence passed down today and hope that should Sabrina be looking down from above, she will be able to rest in peace with the knowledge that justice has, at last, been served. However, justice does not come close to the pain and suffering Sabrina endured at the hands of this man.

“There are no words that can explain how we, the family feel. After six months of searching, we have yet to find the word or collection of words that can offer an answer to the simple question ‘Why?’  Whilst justice has been served, this will never bring Sabrina back to us.

“We thank Sussex Police for their rapid response that ultimately led to a quick arrest. We also thank them for the support they have shown the family over the past six months.”

King will serve 22 years and 182 days due to time already spent on remand.