Sunday, June 09, 2013

Former airline pilot murdered his wife by crashing their car into a tree after the passenger airbag had been turned off, a court has heard

8:41PM BST 06 Jun 2013 
By Nick Britten

Iain Lawrence, 53, was consumed by “greed, anger and possibly jealousy” after his wife, Sally, the managing director of a cleaning company, left him and found another man, it was alleged.

A court heard that he adopted the brace position as he drove the Peugeot 406 off a sharp bend into a tree, ensuring that the front passenger side took the most impact.

Mrs Lawrence, 47, had been “fearful he might do something to her” and had told friends she would not get into a car with him “unless forced or tricked”, the court was told.

Unusually, she was not wearing a seat belt and her purse, mobile phone, laptop and overnight bag were later found in her own Jaguar car, a jury heard.

After the crash, Mr Lawrence allegedly faked unconsciousness as his wife lay dead next to him from multiple injuries.

Nirmal Shant QC, prosecuting, told Leicester Crown Court that the couple, who had a 10-year-old son, were close to completing a divorce, something that Lawrence had been unable to come to terms with.

The couple were still sharing their detached house in Oadby, Leics, but living “separate lives” and Mrs Lawrence had a new partner.

The court heard that Mrs Lawrence, the managing director of Clear Spill Ltd, which deals with chemical leaks, had been terrified of her husband in the months before her death, telling a friend: “One day he will kill me.”

Miss Shant said “matters had been brought to a head” a day before the crash when Mrs Lawrence had an “acrimonious” discussion with her husband about the division of their assets, in particular their £300,000 home.

In text messages sent to one of her two daughters from a previous relationship, Mrs Lawrence said the conversation had gone badly because her husband wanted “more than half” of the house.

She had said she planned to lock herself in her bedroom because she was so scared of him. The couple’s young son, William, was away on a school trip, the court was told.

Miss Shant said Mr Lawrence, a qualified commercial airline pilot who owned a trailer business, was said to have told his wife in a “menacing” way: “You’ll get your feelings back for me.” Mrs Lawrence told a work colleague her husband “had evil in his eyes” when they spoke, and that she feared being alone with him, it was claimed.

Jurors heard that the passenger airbag on Mr Lawrence’s car had been turned off before the crash on Oct 6 last year.

Miss Shant said: “The question for you is, 'Who switched the airbag off?’ because there is no issue that at the time of the collision the airbag was off.

“His airbag was on, hers off. He was wearing his seat belt, she wasn’t. Him in the brace position, her dead.

“We say this was a planned killing borne out of greed, anger and possibly jealousy.

“She was fearful he might do something to her, and that is exactly what he did, in the most cunning way, in a plan that was not likely, he thought, to raise suspicion.”

Mrs Lawrence was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash in Oadby. Miss Shant said that accident investigators found no evidence that Mr Lawrence, who seemed to have “deliberately” driven off the road at 52mph, had attempted an emergency stop.

The prosecutor added that a number of witnesses at the scene believed Lawrence was “faking” unconsciousness. The court heard that the couple met in the late-Nineties and married in 2000. Two years later their son was born, but the marriage ran into difficulties and Mrs Lawrence began divorce proceedings last year.

Mrs Lawrence had been planning to spend the night with her new partner, Martin Smith, but instead “found herself on a journey with the defendant in his car, a car friends and family say she would never have willingly got into without being forced or tricked,” added Miss Shant.

Lawrence, of Knighton, Leicester, denies murder. The trial continues.

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