A GRANDMOTHER and mother-of-three was battered to death with a hammer by a former soldier experiencing a psychotic episode.

Paranoid schizophrenic Shaun Sanders, 40, believed his friend, Leanne Unsworth, had been taking photos of his son, Preston Crown Court was told.

And when Sanders, who had been taking spice, went to her Burnley home, he unleashed a “frenzied and brutal attack” which was so serious it damaged her brain stem, the court heard.

She lost her life just hours after arranging her grand-daughter’s fourth birthday party.

In the weeks before the killing, Sanders had told his GP that he feared his mental health was deteriorating and he would end up hurting someone, the court heard.

In September, Sanders admitted the manslaughter of Ms Unsworth by reason of diminished responsibility.

Miss Unsworth’s mother, Margaret Ward, said the death had brought her family, including daughters Paige and Louise, and son Adam, to their knees.

After reading from a statement, detailing the impact of the killing, and clutching a vial of her daughter’s ashes, she turned to Sanders and said: “She was good to you”.

Earlier she had said: “I can only hope that the evil person who did this to my beautiful daughter will get locked up for ever.”

Her cousin Nicola Unsworth described Sanders as a “monster” and her aunt, Leslie Duckworth, said the family simply wanted “justice for Leanne”.

In another statement, daughter Paige said she felt the justice system had let the family down by allowing such a man to be free.

And daughter Louise said she was still haunted by the memory of discovering her mother at the house. “The bloodbath that disgusting man left her in, a defenceless lady who only wanted to help him,” she added.

Jason Pitter, prosecuting, said the victim and the deceased were part of the same social group, which would occasionally take drugs together.

Miss Unsworth is thought to have attempted to help out the defendant on a number of occasions, he told the court.

His friends agreed that Sanders had become increasingly aggressive and, in the word of one, “psychotic”, before he attacked the grandmother.

On the day of the attack, Sanders was with Andrew Purvis at another of their friend’s homes, taking spice, the court heard.

Mr Pitter said the defendant began asking questions about why Miss Unsworth had described his children as “cute”.

He went with Mr Purvis to Miss Unsworth’s home and once they were inside, the defendant told the second man to lock the door, the court heard.

Mr Pitter said the defendant then launched a “frenzied and brutal” attack on Miss Unsworth, raining down blows with a hammer he had brought with him in a carrier bag.

The defendant and Mr Purvis ran off and went to the home of another friend, Anthony Ford, where Sanders showered and changed his clothes, he added.

Sanders and Mr Purvis were later taken to an address in Wythenshawe. While there, Mr Purvis rang the police to tell them what had occurred and Sanders was later arrested.

He told a custody officer: “The demon in my head told me to get rid of her because she was taking photos of my son, so I went to smack her with a hammer.”

Mr Pitter said that when Miss Unsworth’s body was assessed during a post-mortem examination, it was found she had 28 separate injuries, 21 of them to her head.

The court heard Sanders had three previous convictions.

The first was in 1998 when, as a then serving soldier, he was convicted of glassing someone and given 20 months youth custody. He was fired from the forces.

He was jailed for a similar attack in 2001, the court was told.

But the most serious offence came when he attacked a witness in a court case he was involved in with a machete. He was given a 12-year extended sentence.

Dr Matt Appleyard, a consultant forensic psychiatrist. said: “(Sanders) was suffering from an abnormality of mental function. which comes from a recognised mental health condition, namely paranoid schizophrenia, which despite treatment with oral anti-psychotic medication, he continued to experience a number of psychiatric symptoms. This substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgement and exercise self-control.”

Dr Lucy Bacon, an expert witness, said she believed Sanders first demonstrated symptoms of a psychotic condition in 2000, when he first described abnormal and obsessive thoughts.

Sanders will be sentenced by Judge Robert Altham on Monday.