Wednesday 6 May 2015

Man convicted of murdering ex-wife and hiding body in bed

Published 05/08/2014 | 16:37

Undated family handout handout photo of Jane Wiggett whose former husband Daniel Spencer has today been convicted of her murder.
Undated family handout handout photo of Jane Wiggett whose former husband Daniel Spencer has today been convicted of her murder.

A man has been convicted of murdering his ex-wife and hiding her body inside her bed - where it lay undiscovered for three weeks.

Daniel Spencer, 59, beat and strangled his former spouse Jane Wiggett, 57, at her home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on July 24 last year.

He then placed the petite grandmother's body inside her bed, with pillows and blankets tucked around her, before telling friends and family she had gone on holiday.

Concerns began to grow when Ms Wiggett failed to turn up for appointments and a search party gained entry to her home two days later.

They looked round the property, on Mendip Road, but did not spot the body as Spencer had hidden it so well beneath the "carefully" made bed.

Spencer, of Prestbury Road, Cheltenham, told Ms Wiggett's relatives that she was on holiday in Penzance, Cornwall and in contact with him by phone.

But as weeks went on suspicion of Spencer built up and Ms Wiggett was reported missing to police on August 15 - with officers discovering her body the following morning.

Grandfather Spencer, who denied a charge of murdering Ms Wiggett, attempted to flee the country but was arrested in a hotel by Birmingham Airport.

He denied having any part in Ms Wiggett's death during a 12 day trial at Bristol Crown Court but a unanimous jury convicted him of murder following three hours of deliberations.

Mr Justice Hamblen will sentence Spencer, who remained emotionless as the verdict was returned, tomorrow morning.

Prosecuting, Richard Smith QC, previously told the jury Spencer was a "jealous" and violent man, who repeatedly lied to cover up what he had done.

"On Wednesday July 24 last year, this defendant visited his then ex-wife in her flat in Cheltenham," Mr Smith said. "Something happened to anger him and upset him.

"There was something of a struggle. Jane Wiggett resisted, it seems, his attack upon her. But the defendant took her by the throat and this time it culminated in him taking her life.

"He put and left Jane's body lying in her own bed, positioned on her back. Her face was covered with a pillow, her quilt was then carefully put over her as if to hide the fact that she was dead inside."

Spencer and Ms Wiggett were married for 30 years, during which she twice reported him to the police for grabbing her by the throat, before their divorce in 2005.

Ms Wiggett, who weighed just seven-and-a-half stone, was last seen on the evening of July 24, after which her phones and credit cards were not used.

Spencer also immediately ceased all phone contact with his ex-wife after that date but told relatives and police she had gone to Cornwall for a break.

Friends and family decided to visit Ms Wiggett on July 26 and gained access to her flat.

"They didn't notice Jane's body lying under the quilt and blanket, covered over with pillows, in her bed," Mr Smith told the jury.

Police were called at 7.48pm on August 15 and attended her home at 3am the following morning. An officer pulled back the duvet of the bed and spotted Ms Wiggett's foot.

A post-mortem examination found Ms Wiggett had been hit before her death, which was caused by strangulation. Traces of Spencer's blood were discovered under her fingernails.

Police contacted Spencer, who promised to hand himself in but actually fled up north before staying at a hotel in Birmingham airport under a false name.

A member of staff at the hotel recognised Spencer from a police appeal published in the national papers and called officers, who arrested him on August 19.

Representing Spencer, Andrew Langdon QC said his client suffered from diabetes and poor blood pressure control.

"Given his health he perhaps takes the view that the prospect, given this verdict, of him ever enjoying any liberty in the future is remote," Mr Langdon said.

Members of Ms Wiggett's family gasped and sobbed loudly as the verdict was returned.

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