Double murderer Neil Langmead a 'control freak'

Image caption Deborah Langmead feared for her safety after her estranged husband sent her hundreds of texts

A Devon man has been found guilty of murdering his wife and her best friend.

Deborah Langmead and Donna St John, both 35, were found in a pool of blood in the kitchen of the fire-damaged house.

Barnstaple builder Neil Langmead, 41, had a long history of domineering behaviour towards his wife, Exeter Crown Court heard during the 13-day trial.

The couple, who both had two children from previous relationships, first started dating in 2005.

Mrs Langmead's mother, Caroline Hooper, told the court that her daughter had been "swept her off her feet" by "good guy" Langmead.

The pair moved in together with their children after just three or four months together.

But in 2008 she left him on several occasions, the first of six times she had walked out on him.

'Smothering her'

"She said he was a control freak, obsessed with cleanliness," Mrs Hooper said.

"She felt he was smothering her and she just wanted to breathe."

But after undergoing relationship counselling, they married in April 2009.

However, their relationship declined again, Mrs Hooper said, because of rows over their children.

Image caption Mrs Langmead was so worried about her husband's behaviour she had extra bolts fitted at her house

When Mrs Langmead moved out on 19 May 2010 she did not tell her husband where she was living, but he found her after following her and members of her family, the court was told.

The jury was told that he had been issued with a warning by police for harassment a week before the killings for following his wife and sending her hundreds of text messages.

Mrs Langmead had been so worried about her estranged husband's "obsessive" behaviour in the days before she died that she had extra bolts fitted to the doors of her house.

She had asked her stepfather, Brian Hooper, to fit the bolts at the front and rear of the house a week before she and Miss St John were found dead by firefighters called to the burning building on 22 August last year.

In a statement made at the time of the death, Mr Hooper said: "Deborah continued to be worried about the situation with Neil.

"About a week ago she asked me to put new bolts on the stable door at the back of the house and on the door at the front of the house.

"It made her feel safe from Langmead."

Mr Hooper, who gave Mrs Langmead away on her wedding day, had been due to have dinner with her hours before she died, but she cancelled to have a night out in Barnstaple with Miss St John.

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