Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 16:01 UK

Surrey chef 'murdered wife and put her body in freezer'

Peter Wallner
Peter Wallner moved out of the house before the body was found

A chef from Surrey murdered his wife with a griddle pan, bought a freezer from Argos and left her body inside for nearly three years, a court has heard.

At the Old Bailey, Peter Wallner, 34, formerly of Hamilton Avenue, Cobham, denies murder but admits manslaughter.

Melanie Wallner, 30, was last seen alive in August 2006.

Mr Wallner told people his wife had died of natural causes, organised a memorial service for her and filled an urn with barbecue ashes, jurors heard.

On the opening day of his trial, jurors were told the body of Mrs Wallner was found in a wheelie bin outside their home three years later.

Bobbie Cheema, prosecuting, said: "The essence of the allegation is that on Sunday 27 August, he killed his wife with at least one deliberate blow using a heavy cast iron pan.

He spun tale after tale about the circumstances of the sudden death
Bobbie Cheema, prosecutor

"He then ordered a freezer from Argos and when it arrived a few days later, he put her body into the freezer.

"He left her there for nearly three years, telling friends, family and work colleagues, and anyone else who inquired about her, that she had died suddenly from natural causes."

Following his South African wife's death, he told relatives she had died suddenly from a burst blood vessel in the brain and organised a memorial service for her, the jury heard.

He bought an urn and filled it with wood ashes from his barbecue, which were interred on Mrs Wallner's father's farm in South Africa, the prosecutor said.

"For the next months and years he spun tale after tale about the circumstances of the sudden death," Miss Cheema said.

"He played the part of the grieving husband, convinced her employer to pay her last month's pay cheque and he used her credit cards."

Melanie Wallner
Melanie Wallner's body was found in a wheelie bin in June 2009

Miss Cheema added that when Mr Wallner had to move out of the house they had shared, he sold the freezer and tried to dispose of the body of his wife in a large plastic wheelie bin.

"He no doubt hoped [it] would be mechanically emptied into a refuse lorry," she told the court.

He instructed the neighbours to ensure the bins were emptied but the refuse collectors refused to take that bin because it was too heavy, the jury heard.

Following the discovery of the body and after he had been arrested, Mr Wallner told police that he had hit his wife with a heavy pan during an argument and had done so in self-defence because she had attacked him first with a rolling pin.

He had also claimed she stabbed him in the thigh with a steak knife, but investigations showed he was lying.

Miss Cheema said Mrs Wallner was found to have been wearing an eye mask - indicating she could have been asleep when she was attacked.

German-born Mr Wallner allegedly said he knew she was dead when he checked her pulse.

Met at hotel

Jurors were told that because of decomposition, the cause of death could not be fully determined.

Miss Cheema said it became clear during the detailed police investigation that he had told "many and various lies".

She told how the couple had met when they worked at the same hotel in 2001 and married soon afterwards.

By 2006 the marriage was breaking down and Mr Wallner had become "infatuated" with Emma Harrison, a wedding planner at work whom he went on to have an affair with.

The affair with Ms Harrison did not last and, after losing his job, Mr Wallner moved out of the house in May last year and went to Malta with his new love Lilia Fenech, but was arrested on his return, the court was told.

The trial continues.

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