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Husband 'faked raid to conceal murder'

The husband of a building society manageress beat, trussed and gagged himself after suffocating his wife to make it appear she had been killed during a robbery which had gone wrong, an Oxford jury was told yesterday.

Gordon Wardell, 42, a car component executive, of Meriden, Warwickshire, denies murdering his wife Carol, 39, at their home in September last year.

Oxford Crown Court was told that Mr Wardell killed the Woolwich manageress before dumping her body and stealing cash from the branch where she worked to make it seem she had lost her life in a raid. Richard Wakerley QC said Mr Wardell concocted "an elaborate scheme to quite literally get away with murder".

The jury was told that Mrs Wardell, a keyholder to the Nuneaton branch of the Woolwich, was asphyxiated at the couple's house before her husband launched his scheme to "deceive and divert suspicion from himself".

Her body was found in a layby two miles from Nuneaton by a motorist on 21 September. No attempt had been made to conceal the body. Later that morning, the apparent raid on the building society was discovered. No signs of forced entry were found and the alarms did not sound but cash was missing and Mrs Wardell's personal security code had been used to open the vault at 5am that day.

At 2pm the same day, armed police surrounded the couple's home and discovered Mr Wardell bound on the lounge floor. Mr Wakerley said: "It was a remarkable sight. He was on the floor lying on his back in the middle of the room dressed only in his underpants. His clothes and shoes were close by.

"He was apparently gagged with a strip of cloth and tied to a refuse sack holder with two ratchet ties around his wrists. He was conscious and alert but apparently had some bruising on his stomach."

Mr Wardell told police and ambulance staff he returned from a local pub just before 10pm on Sunday night to find men in his house. They knocked him unconscious and he had not regained his senses until Monday morning. Asked when he had last seen his wife, he said: "Last night - she went off with those men that were here."

Mr Wakerley said ambulance staff later said Mr Wardell's blood pressure was not high and his heart rate was steady despite his reported ordeal. He added: "The prosecution say that that was all a sham. It was part of a false scheme to induce the police to believe that Carol had been killed by a gang of robbers after they took her under force to the building society - leaving him unconscious and trussed up.

"He was not attacked by any gang. He was not then rendered unconscious and tied up. He tied and put the gag on himself. His bruises were self- inflicted.

"We say he did that after he killed his wife and left her body in the layby, After that he had been to the building society to fake the robbery and the scene at the house which confronted those police officers was all part of the sham." During the two days following the discovery of his wife's body, Mr Wardell had "spoken at great length about what he claimed had happened to him."

The trial continues today.