Claire Morris – Died 1994
Felicity Drumm – Survived
Claire Morris (32) was killed in 1994. Her husband of a few months, Malcolm Webster (now 52), a nurse, murdered her by drugging her and then crashing and setting fire to their car while she was unconscious inside.
She burned to death. Investigators accepted her death was an accident and Webster successfully claimed £208,000 from insurance policies. In 1994 it was not standard practice to give road crash victims drug tests.
Five years later, in New Zealand, he tried to repeat the crime on Felicity Drumm (50), the mother of his 13–year–old son, in an attempt to claim more than £750,000 of insurance money.
On 22nd May 2011 at the High Court in Glasgow, Webster was convicted of murdering his first wife eight months after their wedding, of attempting to kill his second wife in a plot to gain almost £1million in insurance payouts and of intending to bigamously marry a third woman. He will be sentenced in July.
As a nurse Webster had access to sedatives. The court heard that he gave his first wife Temazepam before setting out on a trip to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where they both worked. He had chosen a quiet road to stage the accident, but it was busier than he expected. He twice had to reassure concerned passersby that there was nobody else in the car, before setting fire to it 15 minutes later.
Webster, who was originally from Guildford in Surrey, met Felicity Drumm, his second wife, while working in Saudi Arabia. They married in 1997 and by 1999 were living in New Zealand with their son. He practised sedating his wife on their honeymoon. Felicity, an oncology nurse, told the court she slept for 36 hours after he gave her a cup of tea. She believes Webster also attempted to harm her by a series of bizarre house fires and suspicious car accidents.
In 1999, when he tried to stage the crash in Auckland, Webster accelerated to 60mph, veered across two motorway lanes and drove off the road. He had drugged Felicity with Clonazepam, but she was still conscious and grabbed the steering wheel before the Honda Accord landed in a ditch. They were both unhurt. She reported that he jumped out and opened the boot, where he had hidden newspapers and petrol, while “screaming” at her to stay in the car. When she refused, he clutched his chest and pretended to have a heart attack.
Days later, Felicity discovered that most of her savings had been sent to Webster’s bank in Aberdeen, and Webster fled back to Britain. He had secretly insured Felicity for around £750,000. She also discovered he had been planning to move back to the UK with their son, but in emails to estate agents had not mentioned his wife.
When police began re-investigating the death of Claire Morris they discovered Webster was engaged to a third woman, Simone Banarjee (41) in Oban, Argyll. Her father, a consultant surgeon, had set up a trust fund in her name. Grampian Police warned her of Webster’s past. Webster was found guilty of trying to bigamously marry Miss Banarjee and of claiming he had leukaemia as part of a scheme to defraud her. In total, Webster told three women he was dying of leukaemia, and injured himself, lost weight and shaved his hair to support his story.
Chief Inspector Phil Chapman, the senior investigating officer, said Webster’s actions showed a “complete contempt for human life”.
Claire Morris’ brother Peter Morris (48) said: “I keep thinking of him at Claire’s funeral – crying, apparently heartbroken….I thought we were grieving together – he’d lost his wife, I’d lost my sister. He devastated our family but now he’s been brought to justice I hope Claire can finally rest in peace.”
Claire’s best friend, Lesley Roberts, now 46, worked as a nurse with Webster. She believed he was having an affair and feared Claire’s death was not an accident. She says: “Immediately after the crash I went to their cottage to pick up some of Malcolm’s things to take to him at the hospital. There I saw epilepsy drugs on the table. Neither Claire nor Malcolm had epilepsy. I was suspicious then – I knew something wasn’t right. At the funeral Malcolm sobbed and seemed upset but I couldn’t shake the feeling he’d had a hand in her death.” Lesley told the police her fears but they were dismissed. She says: “I had nightmares about it for years.”
Peter Morris said “A few weeks before the fatal crash Malcolm ran the car off the road. I thought he must have been a bit of a reckless driver to have had two accidents in such a short space of time, but never thought anything more sinister. Now we know the first crash was a dry run for the one that took Claire’s life.”
Peter added: “The final thing I want to do for Claire is get a new headstone, calling her by her maiden name, Claire Morris, and taking out the line ‘beloved wife of Malcolm’. He never loved her. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Felicity Drumm (50) who now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, said: “He is a psychopath and I feel extremely lucky to be alive. I really thought he loved me, but he had a completely different agenda.”
Felicity Drumm reported Webster to New Zealand police but he returned to the UK before he could be investigated, and it seems officers in Scotland did not act. It was only when,on a business trip in 2006, Miss Drumm’s sister spoke directly to a British police officer to report her suspicions that the case was reopened, though seemingly not until 2008. Advances in forensic testing then revealed that Claire Morris had been sedated before the crash.
I have seen no explanation as to why the police took so long to reopen the case, especially given earlier concerns reportedly expressed by Lesley Roberts.