AN Ipswich man is facing up to 25 years in jail after being found guilty of murdering his girlfriend in Gran Canaria.

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A Spanish jury today convicted Christopher Chittock of throttling Sarah Shields to death after beating her senseless on a deserted beach during their holiday.

The 38-year-old then dumped her naked body in the sea before flying back to Britain alone. He told Miss Shields’ parents that she had gone off with another man she had met on the sunshine island.

Chittock had been convicted of assaulting the 23-year-old by magistrates in Ipswich only a month before he murdered her.

The couple had lived together in a flat in Alnesbourn Crescent, in Ravenswood, Ipswich.

After the domestic assault in June 2010, Miss Shields was urged to leave him by her mother and her best friend.

However, she told them – before agreeing to give Chittock a second chance and moving back in with him – “Don’t worry, it was a one-off, it won’t happen again.”

A jury of four men and five women took more than a day to return their 8-1 majority murder verdict at a court in Las Palmas after a three-day trial.

Miss Shields’ mother Angela and sister Belinda broke down in tears in court when today’s verdict was given.

Chittock, previously of Great Blakenham and Barham near Claydon, shook his head in his hands as he learned his fate from a translator.

After the verdict, the family issued a statement: “Today, after a very long wait, we finally feel that justice has been done for our Sarah.

“We would like to thank both the Spanish and English police authorities for their support and hard work.

“It’s been a very long and emotional few years and we are glad it has finally come to an end. Our thoughts also go out to his (Chittock) family, who have no doubt suffered too.”

The jury also ruled the engineer had sent text messages from Miss Shields’ mobile to her family and friends, pretending to be her in a cynical attempt to buy time after murdering her on July 6, 2010.

Judge Secundino Aleman said he was reserving sentencing to a later date after state prosecutor Beatriz Sanchez called for Chittock to be imprisoned for the maximum 25 years.

He will be sentenced to at least 20 years because the jury ruled he had deliberately and unnecessarily increased Miss Shields’ suffering before murdering her.

Chittock’s girlfriend of eight months had been sending flirty texts to ex-boyfriend William Newham. But the jury ruled as unproven the prosecution’s claims Chittock got access to Sarah’s phone before killing her and attacked her because he had seen the texts.

Chittock burnt her belongings except her mobile phone, used it to send fake texts to her family and friends pretending he was Miss Shields, and flew back to Britain alone, claiming to be a victim of his girlfriend’s infidelity.

He told her mother when she picked him up from Stansted Airport: “She left me for an electrician called Jason she met on holiday. Don’t try to call her.”

Suffolk Police arrested Chittock three days later, after her family reported her missing.

Chittock was extradited to Spain in September 2010.

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