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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Murder accused 'violent to wife'
Gracia Morton
Gracia Morton's body has never been found
A millionaire architect accused of murdering his wife had been violent to her before she vanished, a court heard.

Michael Morton, 67, of Notting Hill, west London, denies killing Argentinean violinist Gracia, 40, in November 1997.

Brian Altman, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey there was "a dark and sinister side to the relationship" and that Mr Morton had given his wife a black eye.

Mrs Morton disappeared a few weeks before she was due to divorce Mr Morton. Her body has never been found.

Mr Altman alleged Mr Morton killed his wife over Gracia's plans to send their four-year-old daughter to a fee-paying school.

Mrs Morton's refusal to return to him, a row over 460,000 and the fact she had a new boyfriend were also named as contributing factors.

'Depressed and violent'

Mrs Morton, who had come to Britain in 1985, disappeared on her way to visiting Mr Morton.

"On occasions, the defendant had been violent towards her," Mr Altman said.

A year before she disappeared in February 1997, Mrs Morton psychotherapist saw her with a black eye which she blamed on Mr Morton.

"She told her the defendant had become depressed and violent," said Mr Altman.

"She saw bruises on Gracia's face and was in absolutely no doubt that the defendant had caused them and this was her reason for leaving him."

He admitted he had punched Gracia in the face once when they were in Spain
Brian Altman

One of Mr Morton's ex-girlfriends said she saw Mr Morton "shove Gracia in what she took to be a nasty fashion".

He said Mrs Morton had earlier asked for a divorce because her husband could be verbally abusive and occasionally physically violent.

The reference was removed from the divorce petition on Mr Morton's request in order for his co-operation.

A year after, her sister Caroline asked Mr Morton if he had ever hit his wife.

"He admitted he had punched Gracia in the face once when they were in Spain," said Mr Altman.

"He laughed when he told her Gracia had had to buy sunglasses in order to hide her bruise."

The case continues.

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