A man has been jailed for life after being convicted of drowning his girlfriend in a shallow pool of stagnant water just before last Christmas.
Robert McWhir (26) of Potton Road, St Neots, was found guilty at Cambridge Crown Court today (Friday, June 14) of the murder of Marissa Aldrich and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 18 years.
He previously pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice in the relation to the case, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison to run concurrently, and breaching a restraining order banning him from contacting Marissa, for which he received no separate penalty.
Marissa (29) was murdered by McWhir on Saturday, December 22, after he became angry due to his belief she had been texting other men.
At the time McWhir was the subject of a restraining order banning him from contacting Marissa after previously smashing the windows of her home.
The couple, who were described as having an on-and-off-again relationship, had been visiting another couple for Christmas drinks. They left their friends’ home but one of the friends, Luke Holder, telephoned McWhir to say he had left items at the property.
McWhir told Mr Holder he was killing Marissa and to come to the wooden bridge in Loves Way, St Neots.
Mr Holder rushed to the scene, followed by his partner. Mr Holder fought 6’2” McWhir off Marissa who he was holding under the water. His girlfriend and mother, who joined them at the scene, then tried to assist Marissa who was described as facedown in the water and extremely cold.
Paramedics were called and despite their efforts were unable to save Marissa who was declared dead at Hinchingbrooke Hospital at 4.30am.
McWhir had fled but was found by officers nearby wearing wet clothing. In interview, he implied that Marissa had been drunk and fallen into the water. He denied hurting her and claimed he had tried to get her out but could not.
Detective Inspector Emma Pitts said: “This was a vicious, cold-blooded murder for which McWhir has shown no remorse.
“He physically overpowered Marissa, who was more than a foot shorter than him and considerably lighter, and held her under freezing cold stagnant water until she died. He only released her when confronted by his friend and by then it was too late.
“Marissa’s family have lost a much-loved mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter and niece due to McWhir’s callous actions and have now had to endure a trial in a case where the evidence very clearly pointed to the guilty party.”
Marissa’s mother said: “On the 22nd of December 2018 my whole world and my family’s world was torn apart. It is very difficult to describe how it feels emotionally other than it is a torment that is constantly with us.
“There is now a black hole that will not be filled. We have scars that will not heal. The mental anguish I myself feel every day wondering if my beautiful daughter Marissa called out to me for help. Every night I close my eyes, I picture Marissa with fear in her eyes, this does not go away, I imagine it never will.
“Knowing how Marissa and where Marissa’s life was taken causes the whole family trauma. Trauma which will always be with us.
“Marissa was a daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter and mother, we all love her dearly and struggle to understand how she was here one minute and gone the next. Marissa will always be part of our lives because we will talk about her every day and we will keep the precious memories alive, we will carry her in our hearts every day in everything we do for the rest of our lives.
“I was on holiday with Marissa’s children in Cape Verde at the time when I received the phone call that has changed everything. 2018 had been a horrendous year for my family. Marissa’s son had an accident in the May which resulted in multiple breaks in his leg. As a result he missed out on the heat wave that summer. This meant that the children had missed out on the school holidays, so the school authorised in term time to have our family holiday.
“We had spent the morning on the beach, returning to the hotel for lunch. We had all had such a lovely morning and some happy times where some happy memories had been made. As our lunch finished my mobile phone rang, I looked at the number and did not recognise it. I ignored the call but the same number called back. Wondering who it was I answered the call. A male voice started to speak, he introduced himself as Zac the Tui holiday rep. Zac asked where I was and asked that I go to the hotel reception straight away. My initial thoughts were ‘what had the children broken in the room’. I asked them both what they had been up to and they replied ‘nothing nan, honest’.
“In the hotel reception I was met by Zac and another rep, the children were told ‘nanny won’t be long, let’s go and play’. What was going on?, what have they done!? What have I done!?
“I was petrified thinking ‘had I done something wrong’, we had ventured out into the town the previous day, had something happened when we were out?.
“I walked past reception, as I did all of the reception staff lowered their heads. I started to worry more and more as I was led into the manager’s office. It was here I was told I would be receiving a call from the UK. Who was calling me? Why hadn’t they called my mobile phone?
“Nothing was to prepare me for the next few moments, My life was to change forever.
“The rep’s phone rang, he said ‘yes she is here’, ‘yes she is sitting down’, ‘no I won’t leave’. His phone was handed to me. What was going on? Who wanted to speak to me? I cannot begin to explain how I was feeling at this time.
“I spoke to a lady who said she was a police woman. She said she was sorry to inform me but my daughter had died.
“I could hear my son crying in the background. As I spoke with my son I felt so useless, I just wanted to hold him and take the pain away.
“The police woman came back on the phone saying ‘I’m so sorry but we have arrested him and he’s in custody’. I replied ‘who?’ I had not taken any of the phone call in. The police woman had to say ‘Gemma, Marissa was murdered’ for reality to set in.
“Those words ripped my heart out, my world was never going to be the same again. I was violent sick due to shock but I knew had to be strong for the children. Once they knew their innocence would be gone forever.
“The children had to know something had happened and why we had to end our holiday early so I told them their mummy had been seriously hurt and as a result she was in hospital. I did not add on that their mummy had died. The children started to cry but I said #mummy wouldn’t want that so let’s enjoy our last day/evening’. That is exactly what we did. I was broken inside but I had to put on a brave face and pretend everything was going to be okay.
“That night the children went to sleep, I then sobbed my heart out. I woke the next day with bloodshot eyes, but I knew I had another day of staying strong for the children.
“We left the hotel 24 hours later, it was one of the longest journeys home with the children constantly asking questions that I could not answer as they still did not know about their mummy.
“I felt so lonely that day, evening and the whole flight home. All I wanted was to be at home with my beautiful daughter Marissa.
“On returning home, the following day I had to go and identify Marissa’s body. Something a mother should not have to do for their young daughter who had a lifetime of happiness ahead of them. I was not allowed to touch Marissa as she was police evidence. All I wanted to do was to hold her so tight and give her my life energy, but I couldn’t, I was not allowed.
“I took my cuddly dog I have had on my bed for 20 years as I knew it smelt of us and our home, along with a photo of the children so Marissa would not be alone.
“Because of the police investigation I did not get the opportunity to hold Marissa, to kiss her and to say goodbye properly in my own time and privacy. Not only has he taken my daughter from me but he has taken the chance for me to say goodbye to her.
“Marissa’s funeral was an amazing turnout with friends travelling from Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey and Cambridgeshire. It showed Marissa’s children how loved and well liked their mum was. It was lovely hearing how Marissa was always there for her friends and helped them whenever they needed it.
“Every night I check on the children before I go to bed, most nights I find Marissa’s son asleep with his mums scarf wrapped over him. It breaks my heart over and over again seeing him like this.
“I have asked the children if they would like to go on holiday this year. Marissa’s son is adamant he does not want to go on holiday again as when we were away Christmas 2015 my auntie died, now his mummy, so he is scared someone else will die every time we go away.
“It was Marissa’s daughter’s birthday in May, she did not want to go for dinner to celebrate as her mum would not be there, she didn’t think it was fair to celebrate.
“We as a family kept asking what she would like for her birthday present, she would not say as she did not want a birthday without her mummy. Hearing these words from a child breaks your heart. Birthdays should be happy occasions that you look forward to as child.
They say ‘life goes on’ and ‘it gets easier with time’, well I can tell you life doesn’t go on. I don’t live anymore, I exist. I only drag myself through the day to help Marissa’s darling children have the life she would have wanted for then. Time will not heal this.
QEvery time I receive a text I think it’s Marissa as we would text all the time. I’d give anything for my phone to ring and to see Marissa’s name come up, or for one last text message from her. I know this will never happen,but it does not stop me hoping and wishing.
“Marissa’s children will forget how funny and loving their mummy was, her beautiful smile and laughter. They will miss out on a relationship with their mummy, a relationship that most children take for granted.
“I will support them both into adulthood, through special events in their lives, like marriage, births, exam results day, driving tests, their first house and car. Marissa should be here to help and support them and enjoy these events with them. All future celebrations will be marred with a great sadness, there will always be an empty chair and a feeling of low and sorrow.
!My son has lost his big sister. Marissa was an ally in his childhood and helped support him into adulthood. A relationship as a mother you dream of for your children.
I, myself am a shadow of my former self, I am nervous and anxious, stressed and overwhelmed with guilt, remorse, anger and frustration. I will exist and the children will live through this heartache. We will not give him the satisfaction of anything more.
“I will never forget the day this man savagely took my baby girl from us. That day he didn’t just kill Marissa, he killed my whole family.
“Marissa was killed because she had a heart, she was wanting her dream to come true of finding her prince charming. All Marissa wanted was for her prince charming to come and complete her life. Marissa will now never have this chance to find him all because she wanted to see the best and give people the benefit of the doubt.
“Over the last couple of weeks mine and my children’s lives have been put on hold while we have had to sit here in court and listen to his lies as he is not man enough to own up to his actions that evening/morning and face the consequences. Instead he has tried to tear our memories and the true person Marissa was.
“He does not care whose lives he destroys in the process of trying to save his own skin. I will always be grateful of his friends for attending court and telling everyone the truth of what happened that terrible evening/morning. Without these people I would go to my grave not knowing who was responsible for killing my daughter and how it happened. Luckily these people see morals before friendships because otherwise an innocent man would be on trial for Marissa’s murder.
“We have now got justice, my family and I will return home knowing that the justice system can work.
“He will get what he deserves, his family will still see him, I will never see my beautiful daughter Marissa again.
“I wish I had tomorrow instead of yesterday. Love you Marissa always and beyond.”