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.
In a statement following the verdict, Ms Bunker’s friends and family described her as the “the kindest, most beautiful young lady that you could ever wish to meet”.
“The world was hers and Keeley was just beginning to live a happy life,” they said.
It took a jury at Stafford Crown Court just over eight hours to convict the former warehouse packer, who will be sentenced on Friday.
The previous evening Ms Bunker had been to a concert with a friend in Birmingham to celebrate her recent 20th birthday.
After the show, the group met up with Streete in a city nightclub as arranged, and on their return to Tamworth she had “trusted” the killer to walk her home safely, but Ms Bunker was not seen alive again.
By the following evening, searches were under way involving her family, close friends and police and Streete claimed to have left Ms Bunker to walk home alone.
He 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 in the journey Streete complained 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 added he “started to panic” when Ms Bunker “went floppy”. He said he checked for a pulse, but did not think to call police.
However, Ms Bunker had scratch marks on her neck, most likely inflicted as she tried to prise herself from Streete’s grip.
He also 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.
In a victim impact statement, one of the women said hearing about what happened to Ms Bunker had given her the “courage” to come forward about her own assault.
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.
In their statement the budding classroom assistant’s relatives said: “As Keeley’s family, the outcome of this trial will never be enough, in terms of justice.”
Her mother, Debbie Watkins, said: “Keeley was the kindest, most caring, innocent young lady you could ever meet and was only just starting out in her life.”
“Such is the hell we feel we are incapable of showing any forgiveness.”
Marc Ensor, partner of Debbie Watkins, said the family had been “destroyed” by her death and thoughts of “trying to visualise and understand just how such a dreadful thing could have happened to such a beautiful person”.
Mr Ensor said Ms Bunker would “do anything for anybody” and “she didn’t have a bad bone in her body”.
Christopher Bunker, Ms Bunker’s father, said her sister and brother were now “a shadow of how they used to be”.