Love, death, Pollyanna Peate and the secret passion of the Frodsham silver band

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The Independent Online

An elderly village band trombonist was killed by his young lover and fellow band member during a final night of passion at the end of a 10- year affair, a court heard yesterday.

Brian Phillips, a 62-year-old grandfather, had a heart attack after mother- of-two Pollyanna Peate, 34, punched him at least four times when he tried to end a relationship that was "an open secret" to their colleagues in the band. But, Chester Crown Court was told, Mrs Peate had claimed Mr Phillips died while making love.

Police found Mr Phillips dead in his car in Hares Lane, on the marshes near Frodsham, Cheshire, early on 16 November 1994. Mervyn Hughes, for the prosecution, said the dead man had head injuries consistent with being hit "with moderate force" by a fist.

Mr Phillips had been at a rehearsal of the Frodsham Silver Band and had left with fellow musician Mrs Peate, then aged 33, at 9.30pm. "To the members of the band and possibly others, their relationship was an open secret," said Mr Hughes. "Members of the band were well aware, it seems, that despite a difference of something like 30 years in their ages, Mr Phillips and Mrs Peate were conducting an affair together. "Nor was it a passing relationship. They had been having the affair for something in the region of 10 years. Although those in the band knew of it they had both successfully concealed the fact from their respective partners, who knew nothing of their relationship."

Mr Hughes said Mrs Peate gave the police a detailed account of their movements that Tuesday evening, making no secret of the affair, but claiming their relationship had been platonic for the last five years. She said they had sat for an hour talking together and Mr Phillips had then driven her home.

Police arrested her on suspicion of manslaughter. When interviewed by detectives, she began to change her story, eventually admitting they had regularly been having sex near the spot where the car was found.

"That night they had both got in the back of the car together. She said that during the act of sexual intercourse he had simply collapsed and died. She had tried to revive him but, having failed to do so, she dressed him and walked the mile or so back to Frodsham where she caught a taxi home."

Mrs Peate had claimed they had discussed what to do if he ever collapsed in such circumstances and had agreed that she should leave the scene to spare Mrs Phillips's embarrassment.

But Mr Hughes said nothing in her explanation could account for the injuries Mr Phillips had received. There was evidence that he had been thinking of ending their relationship, and, during her interview, Mrs Peate herself said Mr Phillips had told her they were having sex "for the last time".

"It looks very much as if he had chosen this fateful night to tell her that their relationship was over," said Mr Hughes. He said Mr Phillips, a blacksmith at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port car plant, had suffered a serious heart attack in 1972. It was not the prosecution case that she intended to kill him but that in law, if you assault and injure someone particularly susceptible to serious injury, you cannot escape responsibility.

Mrs Peate, of Runcorn, Cheshire, denies manslaughter. The case continues today.