Royal guard convicted of killing wife for money

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The Independent Online
A ROYAL Protection Squad officer was sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday for murdering his wife just hours after coming off duty at Buckingham Palace.

A jury at Reading Crown Court found Michael Coulton, 53, guilty of killing Patricia Coulton, who was found dead in the grounds of a nursing home where she worked as a care assistant.

The jury had heard that Mrs Coulton, 52, who had two children, was found slumped in her car in the orchard of Lynwood nursing home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on 11 January 1997, by a woman out walking her dog. She had been stabbed 15 times and bludgeoned to death.

Richard Latham QC, for the prosecution, had told the jury that Coulton had rigged up a remote-control cut-out device on his wife's car, which he triggered. As she sat in the vehicle yards from the nursing home, Coulton attacked, stabbing and beating her to death.

He then played the "grieving husband", denying murdering his wife, whom he had remarried in 1995 after they divorced in 1983. But the court was told he stood to gain more than pounds 100,000 in pension and insurance money. He would also have inherited the family home in Woking, Surrey.

The court was also told that Coulton had become obsessed with a neighbour, Diana Bridges, whom he had told: "I would marry you tomorrow." Ms Bridges described how Coulton gave her and her daughter Claire expensive gifts and started to "stalk" her when she ended the friendship.

The jury was told that Coulton led a double life, seeing prostitutes and storing a car secretly. The existence of the car, which was later found burnt out, was uncovered by police after documents Coulton had given to his colleague, Constable Pat Page, were handed over.

Sentencing Coulton yesterday, Mr Justice Wright told him: "The jury have found you guilty of what ... was quite plainly a long-planned, callous and utterly cold-hearted killing of your wife.

"This was an appalling crime and if it is possible to do so, it is made even more chilling by the fact that you were a policeman, a man who had sworn to protect the populace ... and to uphold the law."

After the verdict was announced, the jury was told that police discovered weapons at Coulton's house, among which were a Sten gun, a sawn-off- shotgun and a home-made .38 pistol, for which Coulton was given 14 years in jail to run concurrently with the life sentence.

The defence was considering an appeal.