Suffolk

Anne Searle death: Ex-UKIP councillor jailed for life for murder

Stephen Searle Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Stephen Searle was elected to Suffolk County Council in 2013

A former UKIP councillor who strangled his wife after she discovered his affair has been jailed for life.

Stephen Searle, 64, murdered Anne, his wife of 45 years, at their home in Stowmarket, Suffolk, on 30 December.

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court took three-and-a-half hours to find him guilty of her murder on Tuesday. He will serve a minimum of 14 years.

The judge told him his actions caused the family "devastating waves of pain and anguish".

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Following the verdict, former UKIP politician Bill Mountford told BBC Suffolk he felt "equally sorry" for both Searle and his wife, adding "these things happen".

Mr Mountford, who was UKIP group leader on Suffolk County Council when Searle was a councillor, said: "I'm not condoning it in any way but I still regard Steve as fundamentally a decent man who has found himself in circumstances beyond his control."

Eleanor Rehahn, from the Fawcett Society, an organisation that campaigns for women's rights, said she was "shocked" by Mr Mountford's views.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Anne Searle was found dead at the couple's home on 30 December

"Society is still very unclear on its view of domestic violence. Society has often allowed it to be brushed to one side but it's something we need to confront as an issue," she said.

"Two women, on average, are killed every week in England by a partner or former partner. It is an act of violence.

"We talk about getting wet in a shower of rain as 'these things happen', not the murder of a woman by her partner."

'Naughty boy'

The jury heard Searle had begun an affair with their son Gary's partner, Anastasia Pomiateeva, in April last year and the rest of the family had found out about it in June.

The prosecution argued that on Saturday, 30 December there had "probably been yet another row" between Stephen and Anne Searle.

Searle, a former Royal Marine, said his wife had attacked him with a knife and he was defending himself.

He claimed to the court that he did not intend to kill her, but failed to call an ambulance after the attack and instead "sat there like a bloody idiot".

In a 999 call that was played to jurors, the former councillor could be heard telling police: "I've just killed my wife."

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Media captionMurderer made 999 call after killing wife

Officers attended their home in Stowmarket within minutes of the call and found Mrs Searle dead.

In bodycam footage recorded by the arresting officers, Searle is heard to say: "I've been a very naughty boy" and "everyone has their breaking point".

Prosecutor Andrew Jackson told the court that the discovery of the affair "would have put considerable strain on the marriage".

He said Searle had probably placed his wife in a choke hold he had knowledge of from his military training.

A post-mortem examination recorded that Mrs Searle died of compression of the neck.

Sentencing him the judge, Mr Justice Green, told him: "Your actions have caused devastating waves of pain and anguish to crash through your entire family."

Days before her death, Mrs Searle had posted a message on Facebook saying: "Happy Christmas... I hope I will still be here in 2018. We will see."

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Searle used to be in the Royal Marines and had military training

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