Page last updated at 13:01 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 14:01 UK

Soap star partner jailed for life

Tony McCann
Tony McCann had a conviction for armed robbery

The long-term partner of a TV soap actress has been jailed for life at the Old Bailey for murdering another man in a row over a mobile phone.

Tony McCann, 48, broke into the home of Luke Hodge, 33, and stabbed the father-of-one in the back with a kitchen knife in July 2006.

Afterwards he went to the home of his partner Nicola Cowper with his clothes covered in blood.

Ms Cowper, who has been in EastEnders, drove him to a friend's house.

McCann was told he will serve a minimum term of 21 years.

His claims that he suffered a prolonged epileptic fit meaning he could not remember what happened were "exposed as a sham", the judge said.

McCann, of Twickenham, a convicted armed robber, was Miss Cowper's partner for 20 years, the court was told.

Nicola Cowper as Det Sgt Helen Diamond in TV series Dangerfield
There was blood round his neck
Nicola Cowper

The actress played Cindy Beale's sister Gina Williams in EastEnders, as well as Det Sgt Helen Diamond in TV series Dangerfield.

Ms Cowper, 40, who has also appeared in Judge John Deed, Holby City, Inspector Morse and Minder, gave evidence against McCann during the trial.

She was staying with her children at her parents' home when McCann came round after Mr Hodge's murder, his clothes soaked in blood, asking for money.

She told jurors: "He looked generally quite rough and he had a mark under his left eye like a bruise, a lump. There was blood round his neck."

The court heard that while police were at her home looking for McCann she twice took telephone calls from him but at first did not tell officers.

But she did tell McCann that the police were there and he realised it was "only a matter of time" before he was arrested.

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