Monday 16 September 2019

Woman encouraged her lover to murder her wealthy husband out of 'venomous hatred', court hears

William 'Bill' Taylor
William 'Bill' Taylor

Thomas Hornall

A farmer's wife encouraged her lover to murder her wealthy husband after months of plotting fuelled by a shared "venomous hatred" of him, a court has heard.

William "Bill" Taylor was last seen at his home of Harkness Hall, in Gosmore, Hertfordshire, on June 3 last year - several days before his 70th birthday.

He had been missing for eight months before a member of the public found his body in a river in February.

Angela Taylor, 53, and her lover Paul Cannon, aged 54, both of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, deny murder, arson, and an alternative charge of conspiracy to murder.

Prosecutor John Price QC told St Albans Crown Court on Wednesday: "The prosecution alleges that Ms Taylor and her lover Mr Cannon together plotted to kill her husband.

"We say they did that over many weeks, indeed for at least four months.

"It will become apparent, we say, that he and she shared and encouraged each other in a venomous hatred for William Taylor.

"They loathed him."

Whatsapp messages unearthed from Cannon's phone between him and Taylor "reveal a pervasive, bitter hatred for Mr Taylor" and the pair discuss harming him, Mr Price said.

Jurors will hear a transcript of hundreds of messages on Thursday, and were told by Mr Price that the pair had expressed concern about the exchanges being discovered by police.

It is alleged Taylor also persuaded Cannon to pay another man, Gwyn Griffiths, to help him kill Mr Taylor, the court heard.

Griffiths, 60, of Folkestone, Kent, denies murder and the alternate charge of conspiracy to murder.

Cannon, a farm labourer, started a sexual relationship with Taylor in late 2017 while living rent-free at Harkness Hall as a lodger with Mr Taylor, the court heard.

But Mr Taylor became "angered and distressed" when he suspected the affair and was "shocked and very upset" when Taylor served on him a second set of divorce proceedings in March 2018, Mr Price said.

His "implacable" opposition to granting a divorce caused "bitter resentments" in Taylor and had a "similar effect" on Cannon, Mr Price added.

The pair allegedly began threatening and harassing Mr Taylor, with Cannon allegedly telling him he would "get it" after the farmer confronted him about the affair, jurors heard.

Taylor had first filed for divorce in April 2014 and had acquired two nearby farms debt-free, Dog Kennel Farm and Mill Farm, as part of a financial settlement, the court was told.

Mr Price went on: "Mr Taylor had become over the years the owner of a very substantial farming estate.

"He was a very wealthy man by measurement of the value of the land that he owned.

"Despite settling her financial claims, he was not reconciled to the idea of a divorce and would not agree to it.

"He made it clear he wanted her back. She was not interested."

The court heard Taylor and Mr Taylor met in 1992 and married in 1997, and had three children together.

Mr Taylor also had a son, Richard, from a previous marriage and the two sides of the family were said to have "strongly disliked each other" for years, Mr Price told jurors.

Several days before he went missing, Mr Taylor's Land Rover had been seriously damaged by fire after an accelerant-soaked towel was set alight inside it, the court heard.

DNA taken from the towel matched the profile of Cannon and also of Gavin Foulds, the adult son of Taylor from a relationship before she met Mr Taylor - who was living with her at the time at Mill Farm.

Mr Price said: "At the very least, submits the prosecution, this scientific evidence shows where the fabric used by the arsonist to start the fire came from - Mill Farm, the home of Angela Taylor".

The trial continues.

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