Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Husband 'made wife disposal list'

Maureen Hale
Maureen Hale's marriage was described as an unhappy one

A man accused of murdering his wife nearly 10 years ago after she filed for divorce drew up a list of ways to dispose of her body, a court has heard.

Maureen Hale, 42, from Thames Ditton on the London-Surrey border, went missing on 22 June 1999.

Kingston Crown Court heard a note was found in Martin Hale's briefcase in which he considered disposing of her at sea, by fire, by acid or in landfill.

Mr Hale, 51, who ran his own grocery wholesale business, denies murder.

He told police at the time that his wife of 16 years had walked out. Her body has never been found.

For almost 10 years the children have clung to the hope she is alive
Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting

Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, told jurors the story was odd because Mrs Hale had left her handbag and possessions in her bedroom, had not arranged to meet anyone and her car was left on the drive.

He added: "Odder still is that she left behind four children that she adored.

"For almost 10 years the children have clung to the hope she is alive. The reality, however, is she is dead."

Mrs Hale also had an older son, who did not live with the family.

Mr Aylett said the marriage was not a happy one, with Mrs Hale complaining her husband was a workaholic who drank too much.

Financial consequences

The court heard that in August 1998 the defendant found out his wife had gone out with an old friend of his.

Mr Hale reacted by punching her in the head, leaving her with bruises, a bloody nose and thick lip, the court heard.

The jury was told that by Easter 1999 Mrs Hale had begun divorce proceedings, but her husband indicated he would contest them.

Mr Aylett said: "Whatever his feelings for his wife may have been, the defendant was certainly concerned about the financial consequences of the divorce."

Pet cemetery

The court heard that in the days after his wife's disappearance, Mr Hale did not seem "bothered".

Telephone records show that he did not try to find out from friends where she might be.

The jury was told that in early July 1999, Mr Hale visited his friend Timothy Gilbert who ran a pet cemetery and made him a 20,000 offer to hire the incinerator.

Mr Gilbert did not tell police until months later.

When questioned by detectives, Mr Hale said he had been talking about a dog and denied offering the money, said Mr Aylett.

He added that Mr Hale had a habit of making lists, and police found one in his briefcase which noted from 1 to 4 "by sea, by fire, by acid, landsite".

Mr Hale was charged after the case was reviewed by police last year, nearly 10 years after his wife's disappearance.

The trial continues.

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