8 years for banker who strangled unfaithful wife
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 14 October 2009
A top City banker who strangled his unfaithful wife during a violent row after she asked for a divorce was today jailed for eight years.
Kate Ellerbeck, 46, died after a violent struggle with her husband at their £600,000 home in Enfield, north London, in November last year.
Neil Ellerbeck, 46, was found guilty of manslaughter on grounds of lack of intent by an Old Bailey jury, which cleared him of murder.
Judge Roger Chapple told him: "Your frustration erupted that morning when it became clear that your wife was serious about divorce and it was then that you applied sustained and deliberate pressure to her neck."
The judge added: "You are not generally and never have been a violent man. You achieved a great deal in your life.
"But it is plain to me that there was a darker side to your character - the secretive, obsessively jealous husband who spied on his wife, invaded her privacy and contributed substantially to her unhappiness in the final years of her life."
He described Ellerbeck as "a husband who knew divorce was coming and would go to almost any length to prevent that".
The judge said part of the reason for not wanting a split was to protect the couple's two children.
But there was also the "baser" motive, demonstrated by his attempt to squirrel away more than £500,000 of his fortune in secret accounts, of trying to protect his financial position, he said.
"It was that darker side of your character that boiled over on November 14."
The judge noted that Mrs Ellerbeck died in a struggle lasting up to 55 minutes that left 45 external injuries to her body, and that jurors had rejected her husband's claim to have acted in self-defence.
It was a "long and unequal eruption of violence" between Ellerbeck, standing 5ft 11in and weighing more than 15 stone, and his wife, a woman of 5ft 3in and little more than eight stone, he added.
"Her death was caused by sustained and continuous compression of the neck using moderate to severe force for 20 to 30 seconds, causing deep bruising through to the front of her spine."
Evidence showed the marriage was in "terminal decline", the judge said.
"It should have ended in separation and divorce," he said. "Tragically it ended in death."
He paid tribute to Mrs Ellerbeck's qualities as a "devoted mother" and said the couple's children "must now live with the traumatic knowledge that she was killed by their father".
Ellerbeck, who has already served 332 days in custody, was ordered to pay defence costs of £42,382 and half of the £50,000 prosecution costs.
The banker has a fortune of more than £1 million.
The judge accepted that what Ellerbeck did was out of character.
But he told the killer: "This was domestic violence. Your wife was subjected to violence in her own home, the very place she should feel safest of all."
Diana Ellis QC, defending, said there was no pre-meditation and there was no history of violence in the marriage.
She said Ellerbeck had an "exemplary work record" and was "not by nature a man prone to temper or violence or aggression".
"His own wife described him as a nice bloke trying to do his best in circumstances that proved difficult," said Miss Ellis.
The court heard that the Ellerbecks' son, aged 14, and daughter, 11, were now living with Susan Reed, the victim's sister, and had been visiting their father in prison about once a month.
There were plans for them to move back into the family home with their father's sister, who is in her sixties.
In a statement after the sentence, the victim's family said: "We are relieved that this is now all over and we can try to begin to rebuild our lives and look to the future.
"Once again we would like to thank our wonderful family and friends for all their love and support, the judge, and the police for their kindness to us all throughout this truly terrible time.
"We would very much appreciate it if everyone involved could now be left in peace to pick up the pieces of their lives as much as it is possible without our lovely Kate."
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