A jealous husband who stabbed and battered his estranged wife to death after she left him for an old flame she reunited with on Facebook was jailed for 15 years.
David Thomas, 74, lay in wait for Sheila, 69, after promising her he would be out when she stopped by to collect some belongings from their matrimonial home in Herne Hill, south London, on July 24 last year.
Mrs Thomas had weeks earlier begun having an affair with Victor Cassar, also 74, with whom she had recently reunited with over the social media site, the Old Bailey heard.
She told Mr Cassar that life with Thomas had ‘been hell’ and described feeling unhappy in the marriage for the past 40 years.
Within days of the split, Thomas was pestering one of his sons-in-law, Blair James, in an effort to find out where she was living.
Mr James told jurors Thomas confided that he had been to Nunhead Cemetery to find a place to dump her body before approaching a friend asking for a gun.
Prosecutor Brian O’Neill QC said Thomas finally achieved his aim with the ‘planned killing’.
Neighbours heard Thomas confronting her, demanding: ‘Tell me where you live, tell me where you f**king live.’
One, Daniel Child, described hearing Mrs Thomas ‘screaming’ and ‘wailing’ for up to 10 minutes before more than a dozen ‘dull thudding’ sounds.
Thomas claimed he was in a ‘daze’ when he attacked his wife after she goaded him about her sex life and taunted him by saying two of their daughters were not his.
He denied seeking ‘revenge’ and insisted he had no memory of the killing after hitting Sheila with a shillelagh (Irish walking stick) when she came at him with a knife.
But Thomas was convicted of murder earlier this week.
The Common Serjeant of London, Judge Richard Marks QC, today (thurs) jailed him for life and ordered he serve a minimum term of 15 years behind bars.
‘This has been a terribly tragic case for the entirety of your family,’ he said, referring to the ‘split emotions and loyalties’ felt by relatives in the aftermath.
‘You married your wife in 1966 at which time she was already the mother of two young boys.
‘During the course of your marriage your wife gave birth to three daughters.
‘It was, on your account to the jury, a happy marriage, although it appears that your wife felt otherwise and there were differences between you in that you believed that she had a number of affairs during the marriage but you said that you always forgave her.
‘In March of last year through Facebook she got back in contact with a man by the name of Victor Cassar, they having first known each other in their teens.
‘He was to tell the jury that they had first been in touch in around 1975, that of course being some years after you had got married, and that at that time they had a very brief affair before then losing contact.
‘Having re-established contact last year they again began an affair and when you found out about this at the end of June when you checked her phone you told her to leave the house, which she did there and then.
‘It is clear from the evidence and I accept that you still loved her and you were entirely overwrought about her having left you and about the circumstances in which that had occurred.’
Jurors heard that in the weeks following the separation Thomas pestered one of his sons-in-law in an attempt to find out where his wife was living.
He told them that she pushed him away when he tried to kiss her shortly after her arrival at the house on July 24 last year.
Thomas said she taunted him: ‘I don’t love you. I have never loved you.
‘Our sex life was no good. Since going with this man my sex life is good.’
He said Sheila told him she ‘detested’ him touching her and bragged that she had ‘so many’ chances to leave him in the past.
The pensioner admitted calling her an ‘old whore’ in return.
Judge Marks said he was prepared to accept that Mrs Thomas may have said some of what her husband claimed she had done from the witness box.
But he added that he was sure ‘she was not violent’ towards him ‘in any way’.
‘She was in any event there to collect her belongings and had absolutely no reason to escalate tensions between you by arming herself with such a weapon,’ he added.
‘Accordingly, I am sure that it was you who, in your overwrought state, lost your temper and took that knife from the kitchen to the bedroom where you used it to stab her a number of times, including twice to the chest as well as to the head and struck her over the head several times with that stick with sufficient force to break it.’
Thomas, of Casino Avenue, Herne Hill, south London, was convicted of murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years.