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Undertaker denies murder - trial update
12:14pm Wednesday 20th March 2013 in News
A Herefordshire undertaker on trial for murdering his wife has denied an accusation that he put a pillow over her face.
John Taylor said he had no explanation why there was only one pillow in a purple pillowcase on the bed when police searched the house.
He also said he did not know why police could only find three purple pillowcases during the search.
"What happened to the fourth?" Michael Burrows, prosecuting, asked him as he gave evidence for a second day at Worcester Crown Court. "Was it stained with blood?"
Taylor denied this and also a suggestion from Mr Burrows that he had put the pillow over his wife Alethea's face.
He said a bloodstain on the purple duvet cover had been caused when his wife had a nosebleed two days before he reported her disappearance on January 19 last year.
He agreed with Mr Burrows that he was used to handling dead bodies as part of his job and that he had the materials to wrap up bodies in his house.
But he denied a suggestion that he had wrapped up his wife's body and dragged it out of their bungalow at Mortimer Drive, Orleton.
A high evergreen hedge at the front of the house would have covered him putting the body into his black BMW, Mr Burrows suggested.
Taylor denied this and further denied a suggestion from Mr Burrows that he would have known a number of secluded places in the countryside as he had been born in Herefordshire and brought up in the Leominster area.
"I have never harmed Alethea," he told the jury. "I have never hurt Alethea and I certainly did not kill Alethea."
Taylor, aged 61, denies murder. He told the court that as far as he was concerned, his 63-year-old wife, a retired primary school teacher, was "a missing person."
The prosecution alleges he was besotted with new lover Alison Dearden. He had officiated at her husband’s funeral and they had started a relationship some time later.
He had then planned to move into a house with Mrs Dearden in Westgate, Leominster, that he was renovating. Mr Burrows suggested he had killed his wife and disposed of her body because she had become an “obstacle” to this plan.
He said Mrs Taylor had discovered the affair and on one evening in December when Taylor told her he had gone to play snooker, she found him at Mrs Dearden's house.
The jury heard that Mrs Taylor kept a notebook charting her feelings in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. She wrote that she was doing her best to keep the relationship going.
She also wrote that she had to "endure another country and western evening with the little widow singing," a reference to an occasion when they went to hear Mrs Dearden taking part in a concert after she had found out about the affair.
“It’s the body language and he knows how I feel,” she wrote.
Taylor told the jury he had not known about the notebook and he had not been aware of his wife’s feelings at the time.
He claims his wife had become increasingly confused and had suffered from headaches and nosebleeds. He says she had wandered off on January 19 last year. She has not been found.
'She was my right arm'
Earlier, during his time in the witness box, jurors heard Taylor, who has no previous convictions, say his wife had been his “right arm” when organising funerals but had found out about his romance with widow Alison Dearden.
Taylor had comforted Mrs Dearden after her husband died, then fell in love with her. She had wanted him to move out so that they could be together.
Taylor said his 16-year marriage became more like “brother and sister”and described how his wife's behaviour had begun to worry him.
She be gan suf fering headaches, crying fits and nose bleeds and would wander off and become disorientated.
He said she was a private person and would not disclose her thoughts.
She had questioned her belief in God and on January 18 last year had stormed out of choir practice when someone had taken her usual seat.
Taylor claimed he last saw his wife on the morning of January 19.
She was in the kitchen when he left at 8.20am for the farm where he kept his hearse.
He returned after cleaning the funeral car to collect tools but never went into the house, only into the garage.
He drove to the property in Leominster that he was renovating. His wife was due to join him later but never turned up.
Taylor visited Mrs Dearden for an hour but was unable to contact his wife by phone. “It was starting to plague me,”
He returned home at 4.45pm to find the front door of their bungalow ajar. He phoned Mrs Dearden and told her his wife was missing.
Taylor and two of his neighbours scoured the village for Mrs Taylor in vain.
When police arrived they quizzed him over whether he was having a love affair. “In the beginning I denied it,” he said.
Asked by his QC why, he replied: “Embarrassment.”
He said her disappearance had left him “devastated”
and he had begun to “break down”