A gambling addict has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of an elderly woman.

Thomas Blazquez, 51, of Onslow Gardens in South Woodford, must serve a minimum of 18 years after being convicted at Southwark Crown Court of murdering 77-year-old Rosemary Shearman in her Hornchurch home.

Mrs Shearman had been bound with tape and rope and repeatedly beaten around the head and body.

The pensioner was due to go on a ten-day cruise to the Norwegian Fjords when she was killed on September 3 last year.

She had returned from the hairdressers, her bags were packed, and she was awaiting the arrival of a taxi to take her to Dover.

The alarm was raised when a taxi driver arrived to collect Rosemary but could get no response.

Neighbours who held keys to Mrs Shearman’s property and let themselves in, only to discover her body lying on an upper landing.

They left the property and called the police, but while standing on the pavement they noticed a silhouette moving around an upper floor bathroom.

When police officers arrived they discovered Blazquez in the bathroom covered in blood and suffering from self-inflicted wounds to his wrists, abdomen and neck.

At the time of the murder Blazquez had run up significant gambling debts and was suffering from depression.

He was a former Crown Prosecution Service  case worker who left the service but continued to leave his parents’ home each morning in his work suit, leading them to believe he was still travelling to his office on a daily basis.

He met Mrs Shearman at a bridge club.

Investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, said: “The death of Rosemary Shearman has been a huge loss to her family and the local community, who are still coming to terms with her murder.

"Her family described her as a typical loving grandmother. Blazquez is a highly manipulative and evil man who subjected a defenceless woman to an unthinkable death.

"I would like to thank Rosemary’s family and the local community for their tremendous support during this very difficult investigation.

"In particular, I would like to recognise the bravery of the neighbours and emergency responders who entered the house whilst Blazquez was still inside the property.

"In particular, I’d like to praise the actions of Rosemary’s neighbour, Raymond Lomas, who was honored by the judge for his courage and bravery.”

Speaking after the sentencing, Rosemary Shearman’s son and daughter,  Greg Shearman and Carol Lewis, said: “We feel the sentence is some small justice following the tragic murder of our mother.

"We are relieved that the jury reached a guilty verdict and that a very dangerous has been removed from the community.

"We pay tribute to the bravery of Ray Lomas, a neighbour of our mother, who went to her aid and helped raised the alarm.

"We also thank the murder investigation detectives and prosecution team. Their tireless work helped secure the result at court today.”