PETER LING: THE GARDENER’S WORLD

BY SIMON ALFORD

Peter Ling appeared to be a happily married, caring and thoughtful husband but he led a double life for more than two years that would end with the savage murder of his secret lover.

He took his loyal wife of 23 years out to dinner hours after he battered horticulture lecturer Linda Casey about the head with a rock.

The day before, the unassuming grey-haired gardener had told unsuspecting Deborah Ling their marriage had been like ‘eating the same meal for 20 years’ and he wanted something different on the menu.

But this time as they sat in a Surrey pub, just a couple of miles from where the body of Mrs Casey lay, Ling, 50, told her he was looking forward to their future together.

‘It was a moving evening and I was so happy,’ she told police.

‘I thought he was having a crisis but we would get through it.’

The gardener had been spurned by Mrs Casey, 55, who had a voracious sexual appetite but preferred her other boyfriend to him.

His hopes she would start a new life with him were destroyed and she had made him feel sexually inadequate.

The ‘gentle soul’ who never raised his voice to his wife, snapped in a explosion of jealousy beating Mrs Casey so badly the bones of her face were shattered.

PRESSURE COOKER

Ling admitted he was like a ‘pressure cooker waiting to go off’ after reading through more than 1,200 e-mails in Mrs Casey’s Yahoo! account while she was on holiday.

After she accidentally remained signed in on his computer, Ling pored over every word for four days – even printing off some of the correspondence to keep.

He discovered Mrs Casey had lied when she told him she had never cheated on her second husband before.

‘I guess I thought she came across as a very genuine person, someone that more than enjoyed my company and someone I believed at the time was serious about me as well,’ he said.

She had in fact been dating Ian Tolfrey, another student of hers at the Sutton College of Learning for Adults, where she had also met Ling on a horticulture course.

Ling had always felt Mrs Casey had never opened up to him and revealed her true feelings, but as he read page after page of text he realised she was not so hesitant when it came to her other lover.

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Sex in the shed…Linda Casey

She remarked that Mr Tolfrey provided the ‘X-factor’ in the bedroom and had written at length to her sister and daughter Emma de Waal about her relationship with him.

Ling, who had wrestled with his conscience for months, was devastated.

The two-year affair, which had begun in a college classroom, had inspired him.

Mrs Casey shared his passion for gardening, meals out and visits to the theatre, but she also provided the ‘spontaneous’ sexual liaisons he felt were missing from his marriage.

He said: ‘I have never ever had an affair before and this is the first woman that actually meant anything to me other than my wife.

THE REST OF MY LIFE

‘As far as what we were going to do together things were unravelling as time went by. I was developing more and more feelings for her and was hoping to spend the rest of my life with her.’

He met Mrs Casey in October 2005 when he enrolled in evening classes for a City and Guilds qualification, which he believed could help further his gardening career and boost his social life.

‘It was possible to find someone with the same interests as myself, a passionate about gardening, and it was from a sexual point of view,’ he said.

Ling said he spent some time ‘observing’ Mrs Casey, his teacher, and other students in the hope they might be interested ‘on a relationship basis and on a physical basis’.

‘I had a struggle within myself because I had a deep love for my wife and found it all quite hard to break it really because I had been faithful for over 20 years,’ he said.

‘But things reached a point in the relationship where I had a need within me to meet someone physically and another level.

‘I was looking for more happiness.’

His relationship with Mrs Casey took time to develop, beginning with a meal and drinks at a Chipstead pub in December 2006, but flourished when Ling proposed the couple go on holiday.

He was growing frustrated at the lack of time they spent together and hoped a break would bring them closer together.

The suggestion at first ‘knocked her sideways’ but she agreed and in April 2007 the couple spent a week in Devon and had sex for the first time.

‘I discovered life in me that I hadn’t known for a long time. She was someone that looked to be wanted to find a full-bloodied relationship outside her marriage,’ said Ling.

The sexual relationship continued ‘outside, in the car, anywhere’, he said.

‘It was spontaneous. She was a very passionate woman,’ he said.

Meetings between the two became more frequent and Ling created fictitious business trips to trick his wife in to accepting his absence.

FORGED LETTERS

He even forged letters on headed notepaper to confirm his stories.

Despite claiming to be ‘guilt ridden,’ Ling and Mrs Casey holidayed in the West Country and the north of England several times, and they visited gardens across Britain.

They traded emails and texts daily and called each other by nicknames with a gardening and sexual theme.

Ling was known to Mrs Casey as ‘Purple Morning Glory’ or ‘PMG’, while he referred to her as ‘Passion Flower’ or PF.

Yet all the time he was deceiving his wife, Mrs Casey was also deceiving him over her affair with Mr Tolfrey.

Her daughter Mrs de Waal described her as being ‘besotted’ with him.

Mr Tolfrey was also a keen gardener and she met him at her allotment in South Croydon every Wednesday where they had steamy sex sessions in her potting shed.

She also met up with him on Fridays, which she called ‘Ian day’, and slotted Ling and her family around him.

Mrs Casey had also signed up to online dating agencies and there were other references to men in her email correspondence.

Twice married and a mum to three grown-up girls, at the time of her death she was living with her estranged second husband in a large house in Coulsdon, Surrey.

She unwittingly sealed her fate on July 22 last year when she visited Ling at his Wallington home to print off some pictures of a garden they created for the Hampton Court flower show.

COMPUTER ERROR THAT KILLED LINDA CASEY

When she left the house and subsequently went on a family holiday, Mrs Casey remained signed in to her Yahoo! e-mail account, allowing Ling access to it while she was away.

At first he went online only to print off more pictures of their prized garden, but curiosity got the better of him.

Ling was logged in to Casey’s Yahoo! account for four days, between July 22 and July 25, scanning more than 1,200 emails dating back to 2003.

They included references to Mr Tolfrey providing the ‘X-factor’ as a lover.

He tried to access it again on August 5, three days before the killing, but was denied.

Ling told police in extensive interviews: ‘So I spent much more time, a ridiculous stupid amount of time, just looking at them, her history, just to know where I fitted in, to see if she talked about me and just to see the person really.

‘She rarely mentioned me.

‘I didn’t see all the emails because there were so many, there was the outbox, sent box she had over 1,200.

‘I didn’t want to look in every one I just started at the beginning to see how far back they went. I started reading from the end of 2003.

SUSPICION

‘That’s when I came across Ian Tolfrey, that’s when my suspicion of everyone else started really.

‘I stupidly believed her. She said she hadn’t been with anyone else all the time she had been with her husband – very naive I guess.’

He added: ‘Then she mentioned she was having plenty of X-factor with Ian. I read between the lines and got that out to be sex. That was early 2006.’

Ling confronted Mrs Casey during a meeting at Wisley gardens on August 1, but she refused to answer his questions and was concerned by his intimidating behaviour.

He said he felt ‘inferior, inadequate, not as important, not cared for as much and all a bit false with things’ after discovering he had been lied to.

‘It just raised a lot of question marks, a lot of suspicions. Everything seemed to change in my mind then,’ he said.

Increasingly suspicious, on August 4 Ling did a Google search for ‘Parkside Surgery’ where Mrs Casey worked.

On August 5 at 8.15pm and 8.25pm Ling searched the ‘people finder’ website 192.com for Ian Tolfrey.

On four occasions in one hour on August 6 he searched Facebook for Tolfrey. He also searched once for Mrs Casey and he carried out a further search on August 7.

MOBILE CHECKS

He then arranged to meet Mrs Casey again on August 8 at the Rambler’s Rest pub to question her further over Mr Tolfrey and was intent on checking her mobile phone for more evidence.

But she would not confirm if she was in another relationship, nor would she answer Ling’s demands questions over his sexual performance.

In court Ling said he ‘snapped’ when Mrs Casey said in a mocking tone: ‘You’re not big enough for me.’

He then repeatedly beat her face and head with rocks which were lying nearby.

Ling left Mrs Casey fatally injured but still alive. She was naked except for a vest and bra.

He left with her car keys and headed for the pub where they had parked, intent on looking at her phone.

He then took her cropped jeans, blue crochet top, white knickers, folded within the top, and pair of white sandals and placed them in a pile on top of a branch of a tree around 100-metres from the body.

Police were later to find her watch, glasses and case nearby, along with a dental bridge, several loose teeth and a quantity of hair.

In the car park Ling found Mrs Casey’s phone in the boot of her car, which he drove more than a mile away before he started reading through her messages.

Ling said he planned to call an ambulance for his lover, but became so emotional after finding ‘graphic’ sexual pictures that he no longer cared if she survived and so left her to die.

‘I’m looking at these texts and images, I’m becoming emotional, angry, becoming all sorts of emotions. My life’s been destroyed,’ he said.

‘I couldn’t have seen any worse, it was all there in front of me.

‘Maybe I thought it was the last few weeks, maybe months even, but it wasn’t. It was two years.

THE GRAPHIC IMAGES

‘It was graphic images, her making love with the other person and oral sex as well. Everything.’

‘I didn’t know if it was this Ian Tolfrey on the emails. The man’s name said Elkwood, I didn’t know if it was a name he or she made up and it was him still or if it was someone new.’

Ling had found references to Mr Tolfrey on emails dating back to 2003, but in 2006 Mrs Casey described ‘still getting the X-factor from Ian’.

‘I didn’t know who he was, I saw 2009, then I saw them going back to 2008, the whole of 2008, frequent.

‘The mail box, it was massive, I don’t know how many dozens of images and texts. There were loads.

He added: ‘I think I got back to the van and drove off and it didn’t enter my mind after seeing all that phoning the ambulance.

‘She just ripped my heart in pieces. I didn’t care. I didn’t have a conscience about that, she just ruined it all.

‘I didn’t know at that point if she was dead or alive, but it just went out of my mind.’

Ling slipped home to Coulsdon while his wife was out in order to change that afternoon. He returned as usual in the evening after returning to work as usual.

He took his wife out for dinner at the Well House Inn in Chipstead, allowing her a final enjoyable night before telling her he had killed his lover.

‘I noticed Peter kept staring strangely at me, I said “is there something wrong with me?” he said no and said I looked lovely,’ she said.

‘It was a moving evening and I was so happy.

‘I thought he was having a crisis but we would get through it.’

CONFESSION

His confession followed within days in an emotional meeting, while his wife was at friend’s house.

‘Peter looked like a broken man, his shoulders were dropped and he was sobbing,’ describing how Ling turned up out the blue.

‘He had a look of sheer fright on his face. He told me he had come to say goodbye.

‘He couldn’t look at me at first he had his head down and was bright red.

‘He then said “something terrible has happened, I think I have done something awful”.

‘He said he had been having an affair for two years with the evening class teacher who he had been going to for his horticultural City and Guilds.

‘He had been seeing her once or twice a week.’

She added: ‘He said to me “what if I killed her?”.’

Ling then went on the run, driving down to the West Country in his work van with Mrs Casey’s mobile phone, car keys, emails he printed from her Yahoo! account and a holdall packed with his clothes.

After contemplating suicide and having contacted the police on several occasions, he was traced to the A39 in Minehead, Somerset and was arrested.

He told one officer: ‘If you had asked me three weeks ago if I had been a murderer, I would have laughed.’

SENTENCED TO LIFE

Ling was jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years behind bars.

Judge Giles Forrester told him he had been convicted on ‘overwhelming evidence.’

The judge added: ‘You were jealous, jealous beyond measure because having read her emails you strongly suspected you were sharing her affections with another man, as indeed you were.’

He rejected the defence of provocation and said Ling had tried to blame Linda Casey throughout the trial.

The judge said: ‘Each of you chose to live your lives in the way you did and it is your own jealousy which caused your stress and lay at the heart of all your conduct that day which gave rise to this tragic killing.’

Ling raised an eyebrow as he was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years.

Having sobbed continuously throughout the trial he showed no emotion as he was convicted of murder.

Judge Forrester said his tears were those of ‘self pity’.

‘You were jealous – jealous beyond measure because, having read her emails you strongly suspected that you were sharing her affections with another man as indeed you were,’ the judge said.

‘And so on that day you took her to those woods where you and she were alone together. You treated her roughly, you wanted answers, but answers came there none.

‘You prevented her having access to her clothing, at the time of her death she was wearing simply a bra and a top.

JEALOUS RAGE

‘And then she wanted to leave but you would not let her go, you pulled her to the ground and in that jealous rage you battered her to death, striking her face a number of blows with a rock or rocks which were to hand.

‘Such was the force of your attack upon her and the massive blunt force trauma which you caused to her face, I have no doubt in that moment you intended to kill her.

‘You have shed many tears during this trial in the main these were selfish tears of self-pity because of you present circumstances being on trial and now convicted of murder.

‘Had you genuinely immediately regretted what you had done you would not have secreted her body, you would not have taken her clothes to another place, you would not have driven her car away from the car park where she had left it, you had taken it and hid it elsewhere, you would not have disposed of your own blood-stained clothing.

‘And yet you did all these things and the callousness of taking your wife out for dinner on the very night you murdered your mistress simply beggars belief.

‘You had taken her mobile telephone, stolen it, and listened to the voicemails of her own family pleading with her to get in touch.

HEARTLESS CONDUCT

‘This was heartless conduct of a very high order.

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The dumped car

‘You lied to your own wife telling her Mrs Casey had been upset because you had told her you wanted to be with your wife and not her and so it was Mrs Casey you said, who started the violence.

‘You lied and in that way you laid the blame at the door of a dead woman.

‘In a sense that is what you have been doing during this trial, blaming Mrs Casey for provoking you, a partial defence, which the jury rejected.

‘In the aftermath of this killing you have been devious and manipulative, attempting to pull the strings of those around you to your own advantage.

‘Initially you even lied to the police saying you had not met her at all. Although it is true you later confessed to the killing and all this happened while her body lay undetected in those woods until August 13, five days after her death.

‘The consequence of this deceit and cover up caused uncertainty and even more unhappiness for her family who did not know what had become of her, you frustrated efforts of the police in discovering the location of the body and frustrated the work of the pathologist who had to examine the body which by then was badly decomposed.

‘You said you would surrender to the police but you did not do so. The police needed to find you as indeed they did far away from the scene of the crime in your car in the West Country.

‘But finally justice has been done and I hope that it will be of some comfort to her friends and family who have been deeply affected by her loss.

‘The circumstances of her killing, together with the fact that you concealed her body, accompanied by your devious, callous behaviour in the aftermath of the murder substantially aggravate the gravity of this offence.’

He added: ‘I accept this offence was not premeditated, as to provocation the jury rejected your defence and only a remedial element of provocation, not amounting to a defence, was in my judgement of your own making.

TRAGIC KILLING

‘Each of you chose to live your lives in the way you did and it was your jealousy which caused your stress and lay at the heart of all of your conduct on that day, which gave rise to this tragic killing.’

In a moving statement Mrs Casey’s daughter Charlotte Evans described her mother as the ‘rock and foundation’ of the family.

Mrs Casey was a mum-of-three and grandmother to seven and an ‘integral part’ of the family, the court was told.

Her death caused a ‘ripple affect of tragedy’ within the family and has left a void in the lives of her loved ones.

‘Our mum was the rock and foundation of our family, she reared us on her own and we became more like sisters and best friends,’ said Ms Evans.

‘From picking up our children to being there at the birth of all of her grandchildren, we all went on holiday together, spent Christmas together and shared an allotment where we all took part in mum’s favourite activity, growing and watching new life in plants and vegetables.

‘The sudden and unfair circumstances in which mum died only compounds our grief as she was young and had so much to live for. We had so many plans together. Being denied the chance to say goodbye is hard to bear.

‘The void mum’s untimely and tragic death leaves behind is immense, too deep and painful to put in to mere words.

‘Not only for us her daughters, but for her seven grandchildren who miss her terribly. Her latest granddaughter never had the chance to know her love and warmth.

‘Mum was our mentor. Her enthusiasm, her innocent, down to earth view on life, her encouragement have been taken from us. Our lives will never be the same.

‘There isn’t a day, hour or minute when we don’t all think of her.

‘Mum’s appalling murder has caused a ripple effect of tragedy. My stepfather suffered heart attacks and major heart surgery through the strain and when my grandmother heard the heartbreaking way our mum died she gave up the will to live and became extremely unwell and died.’

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