Husband tells of killer in a clown's mask

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The Independent Online
THE HUSBAND of the murdered building society manager Carol Wardell returned home to find his wife sitting next to a man who was wearing a clown mask and holding a knife to her throat, it was revealed last night.

Mrs Wardell, 38, was forced to help a gang of at least three men rob the building society where she worked in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Her body was discovered on Monday morning in a nearby lay-by. She had died of asphyxiation.

Gordon Wardell, 40, told police that he returned home on Sunday evening and found his wife being held hostage. He said he was punched and forced to the ground, and passed out after inhaling chemicals - possibly chloroform - that were placed against his face.

A reward of pounds 25,000 has been offered by the Woolwich Building Society. Police believe the gang held the couple hostage overnight at their home in Meriden, West Midlands, before Mrs Wardell was driven five miles to the Nuneaton branch of the Woolwich Building Society at about 5am and forced to unlock the premises and turn off alarms. Around pounds 15,000 was stolen.

Mr Wardell, who is being treated in hospital and is said to be traumatised, gave his first account yesterday to police of the events leading to his wife's kidnap and murder. He said he went out at 8pm on Sunday night to post a letter, calling at a public house in Coventry before returning home shortly after 10pm.

Superintendent Tony Bayliss, who is leading the inquiry, said: 'Upon walking into the lounge, Mr Wardell saw a man wearing a clown mask sat on the sofa next to his wife, holding a knife at her throat. He was then grabbed and punched and manhandled to the ground. He then smelled some sort of chemical and passed out.' Mr Wardell woke the next morning, bound and gagged.

Mr Wardell's father, Frank, said: 'I do not know how Gordon will get over this. It has destroyed his life. We are left to pick up the pieces because he has only got us. There were no children.' His wife, Betty, added: 'Carol was the best daughter-in-law you could possibly wish for. She was kind and gentle, and the two of them were utterly devoted to each other.'

Mrs Wardell said she taught her future daughter-in-law when she was a pupil at Coventry Girls' School: 'She was lovely then but she disappeared and we lost touch for a few years. Then she met Gordon at a party and they clicked.' The couple married in April 1992.

Police want to trace a metallic silver or misty green Austin Montego saloon car, seen at 5.20am in Abbey Street, Nuneaton, near the Woolwich branch, with several people inside.

Increase in kidnappings, page 4