February 11, 2008 / 3:02 PM / 12 years ago

Woman jailed for murder of 100-year-old

LONDON (Reuters) - A woman who murdered her 100-year-old aunt, a former dressmaker to the Queen, during a feud over a will was jailed for a minimum of 20 years on Monday.

Susan Turner is seen in an undated police handout photo, released to Reuters on February 11, 2008. Turner, who murdered her 100-year-old aunt, a former dressmaker to the Queen, during a feud over a will, was jailed for a minimum of 20 years on Monday. REUTERS/Metropolitan Police/Handout

Susan Turner, 48, set fire to the family shop in Barking Road, east London, in 2006.

Her aunt, Violet Durling, was asleep upstairs at the time. Only able to move with the help of a zimmer frame, the pensioner became trapped and choked to death as smoke engulfed her property. She was found dead the following day curled up on the kitchen floor.

Turner, a mother of two, immediately fled the country and went on a six-month luxury tour of Europe with her boyfriend.

Turner, the daughter of a prostitute who was adopted by Durling’s brother at the age of five, had tried to persuade her aunt to change her will, the Old Bailey jury was told.

Described as her aunt’s favourite, she took the partially deaf and senile Durling to meet a solicitor. However, Durling could only say: “I want to leave my money to her.”

It was not enough for the solicitor, who refused to change the will.

Turner, who had already blown a 100,000-pound inheritance from her adoptive father, was furious she would have to share the inheritance with her brother and sister, the court heard.

Durling had a large amount of money in cash and shares. She had worked for royal courtier Sir Norman Hartnell after World War Two and made dresses for the Queen and Queen Mother.

After she retired she inherited the family fortune, made through a car engine reconditioning firm, and its 500,000-pound premises in Plaistow, east London.

On the night of the fire, Turner disguised herself in a hood and cape and let herself into the shop, the court heard.

The former traffic warden started four separate fires.

Passing a mandatory life sentence Judge John Milford told Turner that her crime was aggravated by the victim’s great age because “she could do little to save herself”. Also the murder was premeditated and done for financial gain.

The judge went on: “Your aim was to become the sole beneficiary of Miss Durling’s will.

“But I am satisfied that financial gain was not the sole motive. You had clear bitterness towards your brother and sister, who are both thoroughly decent people.

“By destroying the downstairs premises you knew you were also destroying your brother’s business — so your motives were mixed.”

Turner was found guilty of murder by an Old Bailey jury in London last December.

Editing by Steve Addison

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