Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Lover in shed, Rita Heyster, guilty of murder cover-up

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Media captionRita Heyster was said in court to be "besotted" with Harry Jarvis

A woman has been convicted of helping her lover hide his dead wife's body under the floorboards at a house in West Lothian.

Rita Heyster, 57, who lived in her lover's garden shed for weeks, had earlier been cleared of murdering Carol Jarvis in her Bathgate home in 2009.

The jury at the High Court in Edinburgh found Heyster, originally from Peebles, guilty of helping Harry Jarvis with the cover-up after his wife's murder.

She will be sentenced at a later date.

Harry Jarvis, 61, is serving a life sentence after being convicted earlier this year of murdering his wife.

A judge ordered him to serve at least 15 years before he can apply for parole.

Following the verdict, Mrs Jarvis' children pledged to make a success of their lives as a lasting tribute to her.

Her daughter, Susan Jarvis, 27, manages an optician's shop in Glasgow, her son, Graham Jarvis, 26, has a degree in sports science, son Kevin Jarvis, 25, is studying law and daughter Kimberley Jarvis, 20, is studying psychology and philosophy at Dundee University.

Image caption Harry Jarvis was convicted of killing his wife Carol

Speaking on behalf of the family Graham Jarvis said: "After hearing all that has been said in court, justice has been done.

"We are determined to put a terrible experience behind us and make a success of out lives and make sure we do her proud."

The family wanted to stress that their mother had not always been ill and bedridden. They had had a normal up-bringing and a good education, which had included university.

The Crown Office has released letters Jarvis wrote to Heyster. Some quotes from the letters include: "Drugs are doing the job, just took longer than I thought. But going fast now."

In another letter it reads: "Carol is dying as I write. Then we have house to ourselves and sell all in it to move on."

Image caption Letter to Rita Heyster from Harry Jarvis

At the time of the murder, it was common knowledge among neighbours in Bathgate that Ms Heyster was living in a shed in the Jarvis's garden.

Heyster, who had come from a wealthy background but had fallen on hard times, was said to be "besotted" with Jarvis and has continued to visit him in prison.

Prosecutors said her devotion went as far as helping Jarvis hide the body of his 47-year-old wife.

Heyster also pretended to be Jarvis's wife when police called looking for the missing woman.

As the four-week trial reached its closing stages, advocate depute Gary Allan QC, prosecuting, described Jarvis as "a manipulative monster".

The trial heard that he planned to carve out a new life for himself, using cash which he believed Heyster had acquired from her wealthy family.

Image caption Rita Heyster lived in the shed in the Jarvis' garden in Balbardie Crescent

Their bakery business in the Borders had made a fortune from the Jus-Rol brand of pastry, the court heard, and Jarvis boasted to a local barmaid she had money, a car, a big house and that he was going to bleed her white.

Grimsby-born Jarvis, who was said to drink a bottle-of-whisky a day, had given up working as an electronics engineer to act as carer for his sickly wife and live off her benefits.

Jarvis also has a record which includes fraud and embezzlement.

He also embarked on a series of flings with women he contacted, using the internet. But he always returned to Carol who appeared to forgive him. Witnesses said she too was "besotted."

Det Insp Phil Gachagan, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: "Harry Jarvis is a cold and calculating killer, who preyed on his wife's loyalty and vulnerability.

"It is clear he thought very little of killing his wife of 27 years.

"The attempts made by Harry and Rita to conceal what they had done further demonstrated their complete lack of remorse for their wicked actions."

Adrian Cottam, district procurator fiscal for Livingston, said: "The murder of Carol Jarvis was an appalling crime. She was a well-loved mother who was vulnerable given her disability.

"While nothing can bring Carol Jarvis back, I hope that her children, family and friends, find some comfort in seeing justice done."

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