Devon murder accused had 'Jekyll and Hyde personality'

Deborah Langmead and Donna St John
Image caption Neil Langmead denies murdering Deborah Langmead and Donna St John

A man accused of murdering his wife and her friend was described as having a "Jekyll and Hyde personality" by a solicitor giving evidence in court.

Neil Langmead is alleged to have killed his wife, Deborah, and Donna St John in Barnstaple in August 2010.

Solicitor Sadie Coombes, who was asked to start divorce proceedings by Mrs Langmead, told Exeter Crown Court he was "unpredictable".

Mr Langmead, 40, from Barnstaple, denies two counts of murder and arson.

On Thursday the court heard that Mr Langmead faked a scene to make it appear his estranged spouse was the killer.

Prosecutors told the court that Mr Langmead planted a knife in his wife's hand to make it look as though she was responsible for the deaths.

Mr Langmead is alleged to have repeatedly stabbed two of the women at his estranged wife's rented home in Fortmead Close.

The prosecution said he committed the murders just days after police handed him a harassment notice to stay away from his wife.


Prosecutor Michael Fitton QC said Mrs Langmead suffered two fatal injuries as well as others which "could easily have proved fatal".

He added that Ms St John, also 35, suffered 12 cuts and stab wounds, including one fatal wound.

The prosecution said three kitchen knives were used in attacks before Mr Langmead set fire to the house and then tried to hang himself from a loft hatch.

Firemen dealing with the fire discovered the women's bodies side by side in the small kitchen.

Mr Langmead was found upstairs unconscious below a loft hatch with a broken dressing gown ligature next to him, the court heard.

Mr Fitton said Mr Langmead had few injuries apart from marks around his throat and neck where he had tried to hang himself, and stab wounds to his abdomen which, the prosecutor claimed, Mr Langmead deliberately inflicted.

Mr Langmead, of Convent Close, claimed that the women had a huge row and Mrs Langmead killed her friend before she was fatally injured while he tried to protect Ms St John and himself.

The jury was told earlier there was a long history of domineering behaviour by Mr Langmead towards his wife.

She left him for the sixth time in July 2010 and began divorce proceedings.

The trial continues.

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