Life term for man who staged 'hanging' to cover up wife's murder

A man who murdered his wife and then staged a hanging to make it looked like she had killed herself has been jailed for life.

Derek Potter, 64, strangled his wife Lesley, 66, then rigged up a noose in a spare bedroom to fake a suicide.

Derek Potter who has been jailed for life for the murder of his wife. Photo credit: South Wales Police/PA Wire

Derek Potter who has been jailed for life for the murder of his wife. Photo credit: South Wales Police/PA Wire

He almost got away with murder but two weeks before his wife's cremation he confessed in a pub to a work colleague.

Swansea Crown Court heard the carpenter murdered his wife of 26 years at their home in the Mumbles area of the city on April 7.

He rang the emergency services and told them he had found her hanging in a bedroom and tried to revive her.

When paramedics and police arrived they found her naked body laying on a cabinet in the bedroom with a noose around her neck and a length of rope hanging from a beam.

Potter told them he had cut her down and her death was not originally treated as suspicious.

But on April 25 he told Natalia Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia: "I love my wife very much but she was doing my head in, so I had to strangle her."

She told police and Mrs Potter's body was taken from a chapel of rest ahead of her planned cremation on May 8 and back to hospital for a detailed post-mortem examination.

A pathologist found Mrs Potter had suffered 30 rib fractures and more than 30 bruises over her neck, face, arms, back, legs and feet and concluded manual strangulation had played a part in her death.

Potter denied murder and claimed his wife killed herself or could have died while choking herself for sexual pleasure.

He also tried blaming his son-in-law and Miss Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia.

Jurors heard Potter claim he was involved in a three-way sado-masochistic relationship with his wife and a lodger called Paul, which involved role-playing, ropes and erotic asphyxiation.

Potter told the jury he had strangled his wife 15 times, both during sex and while angry - almost killing her once.

He also said he believed he had "some sort of power" in his hands.

Potter, of Hill Street, Mumbles, denied murder but was found guilty following a two-week trial.

Mark Wyeth QC, defending, apologised to Mrs Potter's family for the "distress" caused by the defendant's actions.

"It is a side to him that is some type of benign fantastist, and he has a tendency to say things that are superficially shocking," he added.

Jailing Potter for life with a minimum of 17 years, Mr Justice Soole said: "I have concluded and am sure that you strangled her without premeditation, in a sudden and furious burst of temper, and that you there and then set about trying to cover it up by the pretence that she had committed suicide.

"The prosecution contends that your treatment of your wife's dead body constituted an aggravating factor within the meaning of the statutory words 'concealment, destruction or dismemberment of the body'.

"Whether or not your conduct in that shameful and despicable charade strictly falls within the meaning of that category, I consider that it is in any event a non-statutory aggravating factor of comparable weight.

"This is so in two respects. First because you thereby treated and exposed Lesley Potter's naked body to that terrible indignity and dishonour.

"Secondly, because of its very attempt to frustrate the course of justice and to cover up what you had done.

"But for the intervention of Natalia Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia, the consequent postponement of the cremation and the subsequent police and forensic investigation, you would have succeeded.

"I am sure that, in the moment of your sudden furious attack, you intended to kill. As your own evidence chillingly explained, you had a very clear understanding of the difference between the use of the hands as a temporary restraint and their use to kill by strangulation.

"You knew what you were doing. You acted as you did in a sudden, independent and terrible moment of hostile fury."