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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Grandmother guilty of murder plot
Peter Solheim and Margaret James
Peter Solheim and Margaret James had a nine-year relationship
A grandmother from Cornwall has been jailed for 20 years for plotting to murder her pagan lover whose mutilated body was found at sea.

Margaret James, 58, from Porthoustock, had denied conspiring to murder Peter Solheim during the 11-week trial at Truro Crown Court.

The mutilated body of the 56-year-old parish councillor from Carnkie was found five miles off-shore in 2004.

The prosecution said she feared he was about to leave her.

Sentencing James, Judge Graham Cottle said: "It was you who wanted him dead and you who masterminded and orchestrated the events which culminated in his death.

"What you orchestrated was a horrific and slow death."

Peter Solheim's body was found floating in the sea south-east of Black Head, on the Lizard, on 18 June 2004.

The father-of-two had been drugged and mutilated with a machete or axe before he died from drowning.

Peter Solheim

James sent texts from his mobile to give the impression he was on a fishing trip.

Defence counsel Paul Dunkels told the court there was no jealousy or financial motive to have Mr Solheim killed because he had not told James he was leaving.

But police said they believed she had the intelligence and cold-hearted nature to have been plotting the act for many years.

James met Mr Solheim, a pagan and member of the druid community, in September 1995 through a lonely hearts column and they started a nine-year relationship.

But he also continued a 20-year relationship with another woman, Jean Knowles.

Mr Solheim, a Budock parish councillor, and a dealer in pornography and antique guns, had a fascination with black magic and cast spells on anyone who crossed him, the court heard.

'Different lifestyle'

He had many books on witchcraft and kept a box of potions, as well as a book containing spells, plus large quantities of hard-core pornography.

During the trial, Judge Graham Cottle directed the jury of nine women and three men to find James not guilty of murdering Mr Solheim, having ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed on that charge.

Det Insp Neil Best of Devon and Cornwall Police said: "This has been a long, extremely complex and thorough investigation into what was the planned and brutal killing of Peter Solheim."

"Despite being a person who led a rather different lifestyle, with very few close friends, we're satisfied that at least his remaining family can now come to terms with his death and put these tragic events behind them."

A team of eight detectives is continuing the investigation to track down Mr Solheim's killer.

Occult secrets of dead councillor
05 Jul 06 |  Cornwall
Jury reminded of man's injuries
04 Jul 06 |  Cornwall
'Paedophile link' to murdered man
29 Jun 06 |  Cornwall
Solheim accused 'kind and loving'
27 Jun 06 |  Cornwall
Partner denies conspiracy charge
16 Jun 06 |  Cornwall
Councillor murder charge dropped
15 Jun 06 |  Cornwall

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