Wednesday 7 December 2016

Millionaire property developer accused of strangling escort girlfriend 'planted listening device in her home'

Claire Hayhurst

Published 29/11/2016 | 14:24

Undated handout file photo issued by Gwent Police of Georgina Symonds Photo: Gwent Police/PA Wire
Undated handout file photo issued by Gwent Police of Georgina Symonds Photo: Gwent Police/PA Wire

A millionaire property developer accused of murdering his escort girlfriend made more than 500 calls to a listening device he had planted in her home, a court has heard.

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Peter Morgan (54) lavished Georgina Symonds (25) with expensive gifts and paid her up to £10,000 per month to be his escort exclusively.

He is accused of strangling the former burlesque dancer after discovering she was planning to "fleece" him, leave him and return to escorting.

Newport Crown Court heard the January 12 attack - at a bungalow in Llanmartin, Newport, owned by Morgan but lived in by the mother-of-one - was carefully planned.

Father-of-two Morgan, from Llanellen, near Abergavenny, allegedly took tape, twine and a metal pole to the rural property to dispose of Miss Symonds' body.

After strangling her, he is said to have put her body into the boot of his Porsche Cayenne before hiding it in an outbuilding by his estranged wife's home in Usk, Gwent.

Prosecutors allege that Morgan, who denies murder, was controlling and obsessed with Miss Symonds, planting a listening device disguised as a plug adapter in her home.

William Hughes QC told the jury that phone records showed Morgan had called the device 514 times from November 2015 until her death in January.

Morgan is alleged to have listened to the device - stored in his mobile phone as a contact called "Isobel" - for up to two hours at a time.

Hours before her death, he overheard a phone conversation in which Miss Symonds discussed leaving Morgan and continuing to fleece him, the court heard.

Mr Hughes said: "During his course of his interview under caution, Peter Morgan said he overheard Georgina talking to an unknown person.

"He heard Georgina say that once he had signed the bungalow over, she was going to leave him, go to London to work as an escort and continue to fleece him.

"This enraged him and, as a result, he began to plan and think about 'ending this problem'."

The jury heard the listening device, disguised as a cube-shaped adapter, was equipped with a sim card that received calls, allowing Morgan to listen in.

Morgan first called the number on November 9 last year and went on to called it 189 times that month. He called it 231 times in December and 94 times in January.

The night before the alleged murder, Morgan called the device as Miss Symonds spoke to her new boyfriend, Thomas Ballinger, for more than an hour.

Jurors heard Morgan then made a list of items reading "SIM, gloves, snip, handle, tape, adapter" as he planned the murder.

Miss Symonds initially worked as a dancer, then a stripper before becoming an escort, the jury had previously heard.

Morgan was one of her clients, but their three-year relationship went from being professional to "something more", Mr Hughes said.

The prosecutor described Morgan as "a very successful and wealthy businessman with a large property portfolio" who was "a millionaire many times over".

He said Morgan paid Miss Symonds from £7,000 to £10,000 per month not to see other men and treated her to spa days, helicopter flights, hotel stays and liposuction.

Miss Symonds moved into the two-bedroomed bungalow Morgan owned with his estranged wife in August 2015.

Morgan allegedly arrived at the property in the morning of January 12, strangled Miss Symonds and drove her body to the outbuilding.

CCTV footage shows Morgan driving to the outbuilding at noon before taking Miss Symonds body, wrapped in sheeting and attached to a bar, out of the car.

"He is carrying Georgina's bound and trussed up body using the metal bar," Mr Hughes said of the footage.

"He carries it from the Porsche Carrera into the barn, where he stores it and leaves the premises.

"Mr Morgan drives off. He then goes about his normal business. He goes to work in his office. He then pops in to the Lloyds Bank in Abergavenny."

Miss Symonds was reported missing to police after she failed to collect her five-year-old daughter from school later that afternoon.

Morgan met her concerned friends and police at the bungalow, initially telling officers he had taken her phone to prevent her from buying drugs.

They discovered the white Samsung phone under the driver's seat of Morgan's Porsche 911, parked near his estranged wife Helen's home.

Morgan attended a police station and was spoken to by two female police officers at 4.45am on January 13.

He is alleged to have told them: "I can't take this. I need to tell you. I strangled her this morning. I took her body to Beech Hill Farm. She is in a building there. I love her so much."

The businessman directed officers to a key in his jeans, telling them "you will need those keys, she is locked in an outbuilding", the court heard.

Officers attended Beech Hill Farm at 6am and discovered her body, wrapped in plastic and tied with rope, secured to the metal pole.

A post-mortem examination found Miss Symonds died from strangulation.

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