A man has been convicted of raping and murdering his childhood friend on the way home from celebrating her birthday.
Wesley Streete, 20, had claimed he had “accidentally killed” Keeley Bunker during sex.
Her body was found hidden under branches in a brook in Tamworth, Staffordshire, on 19 September 2019.
Streete was also convicted of two further charges of rape and three counts of sexual assault relating to three other female victims.
It took a jury at Stafford Crown Court just over eight hours to convict the former warehouse packer, who had initially claimed to have left Ms Bunker, who was also 20, to walk home alone after the pair had met up the previous night at a Birmingham nightclub.
Ms Bunker was not seen alive again, and by the following evening, searches were under way involving her family, close friends and police.
Streete was taken by police in a marked patrol car to retrace their movements, consistently claiming that when he and Ms Bunker parted she was still alive.
At that time he told officers “I feel like you’re blaming me” after they took his phone as part of the investigation.
The court heard her body was discovered that evening by her uncle Jason Brown, who was in a search party combing a park near a telephone box where Streete told police Ms Bunker and he parted ways.
Mr Brown found his niece with her underwear pulled down over her trainers. The court heard how he let out a “horrendous scream” at the sight.
A post-mortem examination found she had been strangled and Streete’s DNA was on her body.
Streete was arrested shortly after and, asked if he had any questions as he was being driven to the custody block at Cannock, he replied: “Not really.”
Jurors were told how later on in the journey Streete spoke of being hungry, and “asked if there was food to eat when he got there”.
The court heard he changed his account of the events at least four times, which he told prosecutors was because he was “scared” and “embarrassed” by her death – a killing, he said, that happened during sex that began with mutual flirting in the park.
“I put my arms around her neck and accidentally killed her,” Streete told the prosecution. “We were having sex.”
He admitted in court putting the body “in the pond” and covering it up, before going home to sleep.
The court heard he would later return to the scene several times to add more branches.
Prosecutor Jacob Hallam QC said the separate allegations of sexual offences were brought independently by a number of young women who were, like Ms Bunker, friends or acquaintances of the defendant.
“Taken together they show that the defendant has a long history of committing non-consensual sexual acts on young women,” he said.
“The defendant asserts that either the events complained of did not happen or that they were consensual.
“In doing so, he replicates his approach to the death of Keeley Bunker, initially asserting that there was no sexual activity, and then asserting that it was consensual.”
Det Insp Cheryl Hannan, senior investigating officer on the case, said Streete was a “devious and manipulating character”.
“He was obviously trusted by Keeley, he was trusted to walk her home that night,” she said.
“He has manipulated a situation where he has preyed upon her and ultimately raped and murdered her.
“He has then gone on to put himself at the centre of the investigation, to lie to the police, to her family, to her friends that she was safe and well.
“Then he has changed his lies as the evidence has been put to him.”
Ms Hannan also praised the people of Tamworth for the “love” they had shown to Ms Bunker, with pink ribbons tied in tribute to her around the town.
“Tamworth have come together, they have been really supportive of the police investigation,” she said.
“They have shown their love for Keeley and their outrage at what has happened and that has been felt by her family.”
Following the verdict, Mark Paul, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said the jury had “seen through” Streete’s “lies”.
“This case has been truly distressing as it was the man who Ms Bunker trusted to get her home safely who tragically raped and murdered her.
“We recognise the enormity of the loss of Keeley Bunker and extend heartfelt sympathies to her family and friends.
“I would also like to thank the three young survivors and families for their support in bringing this case to trial and ensuring Streete faces justice.”