Malcolm Webster: Wife killer jailed for 30 years
- 5 July 2011
- From the section NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland
A man who murdered his first wife in a car fire and tried to kill his second in another crash has been jailed for at least 30 years.
Former nurse Malcolm Webster, 52, was found guilty in May of murdering Claire Morris in Aberdeenshire in 1994.
Webster, of Guildford, Surrey, had also denied attempting to kill Felicity Drumm in New Zealand in 1999.
He was jailed for life for the crimes, committed as part of a plot to claim almost £1m in life assurance money.
At the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Bannatyne said Webster - who must serve 30 years before he can apply for parole - had committed "cold-blooded, brutal and callous" crimes for financial gain.
He said: "The murder of your then wife was an appalling one and all right-minded people will be utterly shocked."
Ms Morris' family said Webster was a "monster".
Her brother, Peter Morris, said he believed that 30 years was "the correct sentence for an extremely dangerous criminal".
He told BBC Scotland: "It's more important that he's taken from society because of the damage he can cause to women.
"I would hate for that to happen to anyone else."
He also announced his intention to set up a foundation in his sister's name, aimed at improving the after-care for people involved in serious court cases.
Mr Morris said he wanted bereaved family members to be treated as important people rather than "second-class citizens".
Webster was found guilty after Scotland's longest-lasting single accused criminal trial, which began on 1 February at the High Court in Glasgow.
The jury, of nine women and six men, took less than four hours to find Webster guilty of all the charges, as part of frauds to obtain hundreds of thousands of pounds in life assurance.
The fatal crash in 1994 was originally treated as an accident.
Webster said he had swerved to avoid a motorcyclist.
However, the crash was later reinvestigated, after concerns were raised in the wake of the second crash, in Auckland.
New tests showed Ms Morris had traces of drugs in her system.
Ms Drumm, who also suspected that Webster had also been spiking her food and setting fire to their homes, alerted the authorities in New Zealand after surviving a car crash in which Webster was driving.
After the crash she realised he had cheated her of her life savings and was set to gain a huge payout in the event of her death. Webster then returned to the UK.
In a chance meeting, Ms Drumm's sister later told a UK police officer of her concerns, and this proved to be pivotal in the case.
Webster was also found guilty of intending to bigamously marry Simone Banarjee, from Oban, Argyll, to gain access to her estate.
He pretended to have leukaemia, and during the deception he shaved his head and eyebrows.
In January 2008 police warned her about Webster's past as they closed in on him.
She told BBC Scotland that at first she found what they were saying hard to believe.
"I thought it was complete nonsense. This could not be the Malcolm Webster that I had known and loved," she said.
But looking back Ms Banarjee said she now realises the danger she was in.
"I do believe I am very lucky," she said. "I think if it wasn't for Strathclyde Police things may have turned out very, very differently."
Ms Banarjee described Webster as a "clever man" and said people's first impression of him was of a "fine, well spoken, nicely dressed person with nice manners".
But she said she thought his intelligience made him very dangerous.
She added: "He learns from everyone he meets. If I had my way I would make sure that he is in solitary confinement for the rest of his days because he will learn and if he is ever released he will be an increasing danger to anybody else he meets."
Advocate depute Derek Ogg QC said in his closing speech that Webster was "a most cruel, practised deceiver" who, if convicted, would become one of the most notorious murderers of modern times.
However, defence counsel Edgar Prais QC said that although Webster was a "liar", a "thief", a "philanderer" and a "rat bag", he was not a killer.
The family of Webster's first wife have since asked him to hand over her grave.
Claire Morris' brother Peter wants to replace her headstone in Aberdeenshire, which still bears her married name and refers to a "dear wife".
Mr Morris asked Webster, through his solicitor, to hand over the lair - but the request was rejected.
Aberdeenshire Council had earlier confirmed that changes to the gravestone, at Tarves, needed the authority of the owner.
Meanwhile, police are also investigating concerns over the deaths of three children at a hospital in Abu Dhabi where Webster worked in the 1980s.