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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Pensioner jailed for killing wife
Alan Wickenden
Wickenden repeatedly struck his wife on the head with a metal pipe
A Devon pensioner who hatched an elaborate plot to kill his wife has been jailed for four years.

Sheets of paper outlining his plan in detail were found at the home of 67-year-old Alan Wickenden, Exeter Crown Court heard.

Wickenden, from Down St Mary, near Crediton, admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

He killed his 69-year-old wife Janet on 13 November last year in a lay-by on the A396 Exeter to Tiverton road.

After repeatedly striking his wife on the head with a metal pipe, he tried to escape on a bicycle he had hidden nearby the previous day.

If you hadn't admitted it all, personally I would find it hard to accept it was real life
Mrs Justice Hallett
He was chased by a passer-by, who took his bicycle and waited until the police arrived.

The court heard that after being taken to a police station, Wickenden immediately told the custody sergeant: "Sergeant, I can save you a lot of time, and I don't see what a solicitor can do because I did it, I killed my wife."

Sentencing Wickenden, Mrs Justice Hallett said it was an "extraordinary story".

She added: "If you hadn't admitted it all, personally I would find it hard to accept it was real life."

The judge said the pensioner had killed his wife in a "horribly brutal fashion" with a "huge degree of premeditation".

But in passing sentence she took into account his age and "previously impeccable character".

The offence was born of desperation, and more importantly it was born of mental illness. It is something which he will never get over
Neil Ford, defence counsel
Prosecuting counsel Ian Pringle said the pensioner had accumulated "considerable debts", and he resolved that the only way out was to "rid himself of his wife".

Mrs Wickenden had vigorously opposed her husband's proposal to sell their home, valued at around 500,000, the court heard.

On the day or the killing, Wickenden suggested to his wife they go shopping. While returning from nearby Crediton, he pretended that his car was wandering over the road and pulled over in a lay-by.

He attacked her with the iron pipe, but failed to make his getaway immediately, Mr Pringle said.

'Perfect wife'

Neil Ford, defending, said his client had been a successful businessman who had enjoyed a "considerably luxurious lifestyle" with his wife.

Having met as teenagers, they married and "lived happily together" for 45 years, bringing up three sons, he said.

Wickenden told a court psychiatrist that Janet was "in almost every respect a perfect wife", the court heard.

The couple had lived in the Channel Islands, where they owned a light aircraft, a boat and several cars.

Became depressed

But a failed business venture in Majorca meant Wickenden lost about 450,000 and was forced to sell the family home in Guernsey and move to Devon.

Mr Ford said their lifestyle continued to be "comfortable" and they were "respected and well-liked" in the local community.

But as his debts mounted, Wickenden became anxious and depressed, Mr Ford said. He twice considered killing himself.

He added: "The offence was born of desperation, and more importantly it was born of mental illness. It is something which he will never get over."


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