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Man gets life sentence for murdering wife with sledgehammer

Crime WorldBy Sunday World
David Lancaster, who brutally murdered his wife with a sledgehammer
David Lancaster, who brutally murdered his wife with a sledgehammer

A jealous UK husband who murdered his teacher wife with a sledgehammer because she was having an affair has been jailed for life.

David Lancaster, 60, struck his wife of 30 years, Helen, 54, six times with the weapon and smothered her with a pillow as she slept at their home in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

The father-of-one had got the sledgehammer from the garden shed before creeping upstairs and bludgeoning his wife to death as she slept on September 30 last year, Bristol Crown Court heard.

Lancaster, a father of one, had rowed with his wife after learning of her affair, had received divorce papers the day before the murder and discovered she was trying to sell a house she owned.

He had told a neighbour before the killing that he was feeling "a bit murderous, a bit angry" over what was happening in his marriage, the court heard.

Mrs Lancaster, who worked at Stow on the Wold Primary School in the Cotswolds, had decided to leave her husband and had put a house that she owned in Lincoln up for sale.

The house - where their daughter Amy was living during her nursing studies - was in Mrs Lancaster's name but had been bought by Lancaster with money he had inherited.

After the attack Lancaster returned the sledgehammer to the shed and fled the house, driving to a beach at Burnham on Sea in Somerset, where he was later arrested.

He rang the police and confessed to murdering his wife and told them where to find her body before hanging up so the call could not be traced.

Lancaster told police that his wife had rejected reconciliation, as well as dropping divorce proceedings and the house sale.

At a previous hearing, Lancaster, of Kingston Road, Northway, Tewkesbury, had pleaded guilty to murder.

Passing sentence, Judge Neil Ford QC, The Recorder of Bristol, said Lancaster would have to serve at least 11 years and nine months before he could be considered for parole.

"Your relationship had been in difficulty for some time," the judge said.

"You suspected she had been having an affair with another man. On August 20 your suspicions were confirmed and you confronted Helen.

"You say that thereafter she taunted you cruelly but I am in no doubt you became controlling, unreasonable and possessive."

The judge said the situation with the house in Lincoln was a source of "further annoyance and upset" for the defendant.

"I have no doubt that you began to contemplate the benefit of killing your wife," he said.

"Helen had revealed to friends that you had accused her of stealing your inheritance.

"You claimed you had been in a form of trance when you inflicted the fatal injuries. You wrote a note and left it by your wife's bed.

"You said you had been driven to commit murder by the way your wife had treated you and your daughter.

"You also said what you had done was less serious than what your wife had done to you and Amy. You have effectively deprived your daughter Amy of both her parents.

"Your behaviour was totally out of character. I take into account that your family was everything to you.

"It is not unusual for one party to a relationship to be entirely happy within it and the other to be unhappy and unfulfilled.

"Your way of dealing with it was dreadful and wholly disproportionate for the situation you were in."

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Inspector Richard Pegler said: "I am pleased David Lancaster did the right thing in offering a guilty plea, saving his daughter and family the additional pain and upset of a trial.

"What David did was brutal and prompted by anger knowing his relationship was over.

"Helen was a much loved and respected member of her community and school and she will be sorely missed.

"My thoughts are with the family who are still trying to come to terms with what has happened."