NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Murder accused Webster 'did not say wife was in car'

Malcolm Webster and Claire Morris
Image caption Malcolm Webster denies murdering his first wife Claire Morris

A man accused of murdering his wife did not tell a police officer at the scene his wife was in a crashed car before it burst into flames, a trial has heard.

Malcolm Webster, 51, from Surrey, denies killing Claire Morris in 1994 by drugging her, crashing their car in Aberdeenshire and setting it alight.

Retired Det Sgt Diane Taylor told the High Court in Glasgow that Mr Webster twice said no-one was in the car.

She said she later saw the outline of a body in the car lit up by flames.

The former officer, 63, told the court she was off duty on her way home from having dinner with friends when she came across a jeep off the road and saw the accused on his hands and knees near it.

She said the car engine was on fire and the jeep was filled with thick black smoke.

Mrs Taylor said she led Mr Webster, who she described as conscious and lucid, to what she thought was a safe distance from the vehicle.

She said: "I believed that man saying there was no-one in the vehicle."

Mrs Taylor then recalled seeing someone being burned in the car.

"I was conscious of being told there was no-one in the car and then seeing the horrendous sight I did afterwards," she said.

Mrs Taylor added: "I feel terrible that I believed him and didn't open the car. When I saw what I saw afterwards I wish I had."

In evidence, Mrs Taylor said that when asked where his wife was, Mr Webster told her she was at home in bed.

However, in her police statement given just days after the accident, she said he told her she was asleep beside him in the car.

When this was put to her by defence QC Edgar Prais, she said that what she said in her statement at the time would be correct.

Swerved for motorbike

Mr Prais asked Mrs Murray if Mr Webster had mentioned anything about a motorcycle.

Initially she said no, but in her police statement she referred to him saying a motorbike had come towards him on the wrong side of the road and he had had to swerve to avoid it.

Mrs Murray said that if she had said it in her statement it must be correct.

Mr Webster, from Guildford, is accused of fraudulently obtaining more than £200,000 after cashing in insurance policies following the death of his first wife, Ms Morris, who was from Oldmeldrum.

He is further charged with deliberately crashing his car in Auckland in February 1999 in a bid to kill his second wife, Felicity Drumm, who was a passenger.

It is also alleged he intended to bigamously marry Simone Banarjee, from Oban, Argyll, to gain access to her estate.

It is claimed he told her he was terminally ill with leukaemia when he was actually in good health.

The trial, which began on 1 February, continues.

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