Tuesday 12 November 2019

Missing undertaker's wife was not losing her mind, says family's vicar

Richard Vernalls

A vicar has branded as "nonsense" claims that an undertaker's wife was losing her mind in the days before she went missing.

Funeral director John Taylor, 61, denies murdering his wife Alethea Taylor and then disposing of her body.

She has not been seen or heard of since he reported her missing to police on the evening of January 19 last year.

On day five of his trial at Worcester Crown Court, England the jury heard from the Rev Sian Harris, who had known the Taylors for about 10 years.

Asked by Jonas Hankin, prosecuting, if she had heard claims that retired primary school teacher Mrs Taylor was "suffering from confusion or a lack of awareness", she said she had, adding: "I thought it was nonsense."  Ms Harris saw 63-year-old Mrs Taylor four times in the six months before she disappeared and said she "appeared perfectly normal apart from one occasion at the 2011 Christmas carol service when she seemed sad and avoided my gaze".

Another witness, Ann Boatright, said that after the disappearance, Taylor, of Orleton in Herefordshire, spoke to her on the phone telling her he would not be able to access his wife's "substantial" pension for at least seven years.

She said that when recounting a row at a New Year's Eve party, Taylor told her he thought his wife was losing her mind.

"He thought she was suffering with dementia but he couldn't get her to go to a doctor," she said.

Mr Hankin asked if Taylor gave her the impression his wife was "clinging" to him, and she replied "yes".

Michael Dowding, former chairman of the Birchpole Singers choir, recounted how, the night before she was reported missing, Mrs Taylor was upset on hearing news of a friend's death and later walked out of choir practice when another member mistakenly sat in her chair.

However, he said she left "in a measured way", and had paid the next six months of subscriptions for her and her husband before the session started.

Earlier, the jury heard the final part of testimony from Taylor's lover Alison Dearden, from nearby Brimfield, with whom he began an affair six months before his wife disappeared.

She said "tongues were wagging" in the village about the love affair before and after Mrs Taylor went missing. Mrs Dearden's friend Rosamund Plested described her as being "besotted" with Taylor after the death of her husband the year before.

Ms Harris said after Mrs Taylor's disappearance, she advised Mrs Dearden to "think about" leaving the area for a period of reflection.

Yesterday, the jury heard how Taylor had been renovating a house in Leominster and how the lovers had discussed moving in together.

PA Media

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