Former UKIP councillor accused of murdering wife 'threatened to kill her three months before her death'
A former UKIP councillor who is standing trial accused of murdering his wife at their Stowmarket home last year threatened to kill her just weeks before her death, a court heard today (Tuesday).
Stephen Searle, 64, told his wife, Jessie Anne Searle, 62, ‘I will kill you, I will’ and tried to push her down the stairs, Ipswich Crown Court was told.
The threat was allegedly made after mother-of-three Mrs Searle discovered in June last year that her husband was having an affair with the couple’s daughter-in-law, Anastasia Pomiateeva, and uploaded screenshots of their text messages, which were of a sexual nature, to Facebook.
In a statement read out in the court by prosecutor Andrew Jackson, Victoria Searle, another of the couple’s daughters-in-law, said that Mrs Searle visited her home in late October or early November and seemed ‘really unhappy’.
“She said she thought that Stephen, my father-in-law, was having an affair with my sister-in-law. Stephen had told her she doesn’t make an effort anymore so she had started wearing make up,” she said.
“Anne said that Stephen had said ‘I’ll kill you, I will’ and she replied ‘you wouldn’t be able to do that, you’re a weak man’.”
The statement said that Mrs Searle claimed Stephen tried to push her down the stairs some months before, resulting in police having to be called to their home in The Brickfields, where Mrs Searle was later found dead on December 30.
Colleagues of Mrs Searle, who worked with her at the Ichiban UK sushi factory in Stowmarket, also told the court that the victim turned up to work in June with bruising on her forearms, which she said was due to Mr Searle forcing his way into the house.
One of her colleagues, Kelly Lawrence, said that when she saw Mrs Searle two days before her death she seemed ‘much better’.
“She had lost weight and stopped smoking. She seemed to be really happy and really looking forward to the new year and everything,” she said.
“She wanted to make her marriage work and sort it out. She had been married for so long and she said she was too old to start again.”
But Mrs Searle’s team leader, Sally Cutting, said that on the day she died, Mrs Searle told her she had argued with her husband over Christmas, after he gave her a £14 hat and scarf set from Asda and threw their Christmas dinner into the bin before she had had a chance to cook it.
“She said she’d come to the conclusion that he thought he was worthless as he was no longer a councillor,” she said.
Searle claims his actions were made in self defence after his wife tried to stab him in the stomach with a knife, causing injuries to his hand and stomach. He has pleaded not guilty to his wife’s murder.
Forensic pathologist Dr Benjamin Swift, who carried out a post mortem on Mrs Searle on December 31, found neck compression to be the cause of death and said that pressure could have been applied to her neck for a period of minutes.
Dr Swift, who presented his case for the prosecution, said the bruising on her neck was consistent with a 'head lock or choke hold', in which a person would usually become unconscious within eight to 15 seconds, with death occurring after an average of two to three minutes.
"If pressure is maintained, it increases the risk of a fatal outcome. Irreversible brain damage started within three minutes so it is likely to have happened over minutes and not seconds," he said.
He added that, during the unconscious period, Mrs Searle may have bitten her own tongue, gone rigid or started shaking uncontrollably.
Dr David Rouse, forensic pathologist for the defence, agreed with Dr Swift's conclusions but said that death may have occurred after any period of time between 45 seconds and five minutes.
He also said that heavy drinking, heart problems and the stimulation of the vagal nerve, which slows the heart, could have shortened the period of time before death occurred.
The court heard that a toxicology report found two and a half times the legal drink driving limit of alcohol in Mrs Searle's system.
The trial continues.