A jealous boyfriend who battered his teenage girlfriend to death leaving her with 53 injuries was branded a “coward” as he refused to appear in court to be jailed for her murder.

Scott Clifford, 33, was sentenced to life with a minimum of 18 years after he left 18-year-old Natasha Hill with black eyes and a fractured skull in a shocking catalogue of violence during the sustained and brutal attack.

He called for an ambulance claiming she had fallen down the stairs but was caught out when paramedics spotted him trying to wash his clothes as they battled to save her life.

Clifford, who has a history of domestic violence, was unanimously convicted of murdering the teen at his flat last Thursday after a jury trial at Southwark Crown Court before being sentenced on Monday.

He previously admitted two counts of actual bodily harm - one of which also against Natasha Hill’s friend Tammy Huntley - and one of common assault against his girlfriend prior to the murder.

In that attack he had knocked her unconscious in the street.

Sentencing Clifford, of Sewell Road, Thamesmead, in absence, Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC said: “He was possessive, jealous and isolating and prone to outbursts of serious violence especially when he had been drinking.”

He said the murder happened “in the context of what only be described as a coercive and controlling relationship”.

Judge Pegden QC added: “She was vulnerable because she was so much younger, because she had just come out of care and because as we heard in the evidence in the case, she did have her frailties.”

He said his sentence took into account his previous assaults against her and a previous partner.

Tom Little, prosecuting, read a letter to the court from her sister Melissa.

He said: “What really haunts me is I told her if she didn’t get away from him he would kill her. I know she told me that she really loved him, I’m not sure she knew what love was.

“She really believed she could change him. I remember saying to my mum it was like watching someone die, she was deteriorating before our eyes.”

Melissa, who was six years older than Natasha, said her sister dreamed to be a holiday representative but quit studying at Chelmsford College because of Clifford.

Miss Hill was pronounced dead just 11 minutes after Clifford called paramedics to his flat at 4.22am on April 15 last year.

He claimed he had put her in bed after she drunkenly fell down the stairs and he woke up to find her with black eyes, bleeding and unresponsive.

A post-mortem examination gave her cause of death as a major head injury. The trial also heard how Clifford in 2012 had attacked his ex-girlfriend Michelle Bateman, who he had six children with. Clifford was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years, with two years concurrent for each ABH count and four months for common assault.