Page last updated at 20:45 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Man murdered make-up artist wife

'Diane was a sweet, kind, woman'

A spiritualist minister from East Sussex has been jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering his make-up artist wife.

David Chenery-Wickens, 52, of Duddleswell, denied murdering Diane, 48, and dumping her body. She went missing in January 2008.

He told Lewes Crown Court she had planned to disappear to escape financial and work worries.

Chenery-Wickens was told he would serve a minimum of 18 years in jail.

Mrs Chenery-Wickens' decomposed body was found in an area of woodland, thick with brambles, off Worth Lane, Little Horsted, near Uckfield, last May.

The prosecution was unable to say how, where and exactly when Mrs Chenery-Wickens died because of the length of time her body was exposed to the elements, but it said evidence pointed to her being murdered on 22 January last year.

You killed her, most probably by strangling her, though it's clear from the evidence that blood was spilt
Judge Mr Justice Cooke

The court heard Chenery-Wickens killed his wife after she began to uncover his sexual and financial lies.

On the day she was murdered, she found out her husband had been cheating on her and had also dialled a gay chatline.

Jurors were told that on 23 January 2008, Chenery-Wickens sold 9ct gold jewellery belonging to his wife to Walsh Bros Jewellers in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, for 100.

He claimed his wife knew about this and that he gave her the money because they were struggling financially.

Three days after he murdered her, he met a man via a gay chatline.

Wedding ring

When Chenery-Wickens was arrested on suspicion of her murder on 31 January, a forensic medical examiner found scratches on his wrists, arms and legs.

Diane Chenery-Wickens

It also emerged that blood was found on Mrs Chenery-Wickens's wedding and eternity rings, hidden in a box in the couple's bedroom.

Passing sentence, Judge Mr Justice Cooke said Chenery-Wickens repeatedly lied to his wife as he indulged in affairs with other women and men.

He also preyed on vulnerable people whom he deceived into parting with money.

Mr Justice Cooke said Chenery-Wickens had been a drain on Mrs Chenery-Wickens, who was the main breadwinner.

'False story'

Speaking of the night of the murder, the judge said: "Whether it was a sudden loss of temper or in a controlled rage, you killed her, most probably by strangling her, though it's clear from the evidence that blood was spilt.

"You then disposed of the body either on that night or on 23 January, knowing it was unlikely that it would be seen for a long time or ever."

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Ch Insp Steve Johns, of Sussex Police, said: "David Chenery-Wickens created a false story about Diane's disappearance, and then thought he was clever enough to go on adapting it to try to match every new piece of information that we uncovered.

"The principal victim of his lies was, of course, Diane herself. But Diane's family and friends are victims too."

Mrs Chenery-Wickens's television credits included the BBC's Dead Ringers, The League Of Gentlemen and Casualty.

She won an Emmy in 2000 for Arabian Nights and received a Bafta nomination for Dead Ringers three years later.

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific