A betting shop manager who battered his girlfriend and left her for dead before confessing to his mother was jailed for life today.
Andrew Gaffney, 39, was told he must serve at least 18 years in jail for the “cowardly” attack in which he punched and kicked Maria Colaco.
Miss Colaco, a 50-year-old barmaid, suffered car crash type injuries and died seven days later in hospital.
Her daughter Jordana Carr said she had a “heart of gold” and that her mother’s murder in January had devastated the family.
Miss Colaco had only been seeing Gaffney for a few months but told friends he was “the one” and she wanted to marry him.
The Old Bailey heard that the William Hill manager reciprocated her affection in the loving text messages he sent until hours before the attack.
But Gaffney turned violent after getting drunk and going to her home in the early hours of New Year’s Day, after she had been working in the Winter’s pub in Finchley.
He punched his girlfriend several times in the face and swung her around in her bedroom before hitting her again as she lay on the ground.
Gaffney also kicked Miss Colaco, leaving his brown Rockport shoes stained with her blood, the court heard. He left her with brain injuries similar to those caused by a car crash or falls from more than three metres.
Afterwards he went back home to his mother Joan and told her: “Mum, I have hit Maria many times. The police will be coming round shortly to arrest me.”
The next day his mother persuaded him to return to the flat to check on his girlfriend, and he called 999.
The father-of-four, of Barnet, claimed in court that he lost control after Miss Colaco lashed out during a row, but his explanation was unanimously rejected by jurors who convicted him of murder.
Judge Giles Forrester told him: “You battered her to death during a brutal, cowardly and merciless attack upon a defenceless woman in her own bedroom.”
The judge said Miss Colaco must have “suffered terribly” as she lay injured and that had Gaffney contacted emergency services “the outcome might have been different”.
“How you could have acted in the way you did and then left her for that period of 12 hours whilst you returned home and went to bed simply beggars belief,” the judge told him.
He said Gaffney apparently intended “to punish her and to hurt her” in revenge for something she said.
“She paid for that with her life – to the despair of her family,” he said.
Ms Carr said in a statement read to the court: “This violent, mindless act has completely devastated my family.
“I have lost my beautiful mum, who was always a lovely, outgoing, caring person. She had a heart of gold and completely doted on her four grandchildren.”
She said of the days her mother spent in hospital before her death: “I prayed that when I held her hand and told her I loved her she knew I was there.”
Detective Inspector Simon Pickford said: “Maria was a popular woman who believed she had found the man she wanted to marry and she was full of plans for the future.
“That future was cruelly taken away from her. Maria’s family and friends have been left devastated by her death.”