A FORMER soldier who killed a woman with a meat cleaver and dismembered her body was today (Wednesday) jailed for life and will have to serve at least 21 years.

The body of the victim, Chantel Taylor, a mother-of-three, has never been found and her killer, Stephen Wynne, was only caught after setting fire to a mosque.

When his home in Birkenhead, was searched following that blaze, police officers found a note referring to a "junkie whore". Asked if he knew anything about Chantel's disappearance nearly 16 months earlier he immediately confessed.

He told police that after smoking heroin he did not remember attacking the 27-year-old woman or hacking off her head and arms.

But Liverpool Crown Court heard that after an expert forensic scientist painstakingly pieced together what must have happened, he finally admitted the truth just a few days ago and changed his plea to guilty to murder.

His barrister said that Wynne had committed the arson as he wanted to be arrested. "His mind was bordering on being destroyed by the guilt he was experiencing as a consequence of committing the murder."

Jailing him for life, Mr Justice McCoombe said that on the night of the murder Wynne had drunk a large amount of alcohol and taken cannabis and cocaine. He said: "That propensity to consume such substances lies at the root of all that has gone wrong in your life."

After soliciting her services when they met by chance as Wynne walked home in the early hours of March 13, 2004, they went to his house in Elmswood Road, and after chatting and taking heroin they had sex.

Just before she was about to leave he realised she had stolen some of his heroin and hidden it under her top and stopped her leaving the bedroom.

"She resisted and you struck her to the side of her neck with a meat cleaver which you kept in your bedroom," said Mr Justice McCoombe.

He said he accepted the murder had not been premeditated and she quickly died from the injuries inflicted in that single blow.

But he added, "An attack with a weapon of that character is savage in the extreme."

Wynne then decided to conceal the body and "in gruesome fashion" severed her arms and head so he could get her body into the attic where he hid it in a disused water tank.

The court heard that Wynne said after two weeks he could not cope with the unbearable smell and took her head and arms in a rucksack to a local beauty spot, Royden Park, where he hid them in some woods.

He put the rest of her body in a large builder's bag and took it to Bidston Tip. Wynne hid the cleaver and a saw in a concrete block in his back yard ,where he also kept their bloodstained clothing and bedding in bin bags. Police found them there.

Neil Flewitt, QC, prosecuting, said that Miss Taylor, of Newling Street, was last seen by a friend also living in the house in the early hours of March 13, 2004.

Wynne was arrested after throwing petrol at the door of the Wirral Islamic centre and mosque in Borough Road, Birkenhead, in the early hours of July 9 last year.

Mr Flewitt said this occurred less than 48 hours after the London bombings and was a religiously aggravated offence. The second iman, Bashirulah Mohd, was living above the mosque and had to be rescued by fireman through an upstairs window as he was trapped by flames because all the windows had mesh over them due to previous stoning incidents.

He said however it was accepted that he had not known that anyone was in the premises. Wynne pleaded guilty to arson being reckless whether the life was endangered.

The judge imposed an indeterminate sentence for that offence with a minimum term of three years less the 194 days he has served on remand.

Andrew Menary, QC, defending, said that Wynne bitterly regretted what he had done. Before these offences he had led an unremarkably ordinary life.

Wynne had enjoyed his army service but was discharged for smoking cannabis and later worked as a labourer. He had not targeted his murder victim and the violence he used was utterly out of character.

He panicked after killing her and for a long time did not go out and kept expecting the police to call and arrest him, said Mr Menary.