Died 24th July 2013
Jane Wiggett (57) was beaten and strangled to death at her home in Mendip Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on 24th July 2013.
In August 2014, Daniel Spencer (59), her former husband, of Prestbury Road, Cheltenham, was convicted of her murder. He was jailed for life and will serve a minimum of 16 years.
Ms Wiggett remained married to Spencer for 30 years, during which she twice reported him to the police for grabbing her by the throat. She divorced him in 2005. She weighed just seven-and-a-half stone.
After killing Ms Wiggett, Spencer placed her body inside her bed, with pillows and blankets tucked around her, before telling friends and family she had gone on holiday. Her body was discovered three weeks later.
A post-mortem examination found Ms Wiggett had been hit before her death by strangulation. Traces of Spencer’s blood were discovered under her fingernails.
Concerns began to grow when Ms Wiggett failed to turn up for appointments and a search party of friends and relatives gained entry to her home two days later. They looked round the property, but did not spot the body as it had been hidden beneath the “carefully” made bed.
Spencer told Ms Wiggett’s relatives that she was on holiday in Penzance, Cornwall and in contact with him by phone. However, Ms Wiggett was reported missing to police on 15th August and officers discovered her body the following morning.
Police contacted Spencer, who promised to hand himself in but actually attempted to flee the country. He fled north before staying at a hotel in Birmingham airport under a false name. A member of staff at the hotel recognised him from a police appeal and called officers, who arrested him.
Spencer denied killing Ms Wiggett during his trial before Mr Justice Hamblen at Bristol Crown Court, but a unanimous jury convicted him of murder.
Prosecutor Richard Smith QC told the jury Spencer was a “jealous” and violent man, who repeatedly lied to cover up what he had done. Mr Smith said: “On Wednesday July 24 last year, this defendant visited his then ex-wife in her flat in Cheltenham,” Mr Smith said. “Something happened to anger him and upset him. There was something of a struggle. Jane Wiggett resisted, it seems, his attack upon her. But the defendant took her by the throat and this time it culminated in him taking her life. He put and left Jane’s body lying in her own bed, positioned on her back. Her face was covered with a pillow, her quilt was then carefully put over her as if to hide the fact that she was dead inside.”
On sentencing, the Judge said: “During the evening or night of the 24 July of last year her life was taken away from her. It was taken away by you, Daniel Spencer, her ex-husband. As the jury found you murdered her by strangulation. We do not know exactly what happened in Jane’s flat that night because you deprived Jane of her voice and you have chosen not to use yours by denying the crime and not giving evidence. You were bullying and controlling towards her.” He added, echoing something the prosecutor had said “ It appears that Jane couldn’t live with you but nor could she live without you. That was a mistake that was to prove fatal.”
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the Daily Mail and ITV.
We deplore comments by prosecutors and judges which seem to criticise victims’ judgement or imply or suggest that victims have any responsibility for their own deaths. Ms Wiggett died because her former husband was jealous and violent not because “ she ‘couldn’t live with’ her killer and ‘couldn’t live without him’. It is painful enough for loved ones when defence lawyers pillory victims, but when prosecutors suggest that they are foolish and judges echo this sentiment at sentencing, it is surely the final insult.