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Architect 'killed violinist wife seven years ago'

A wealthy architect allegedly murdered his estranged wife and disposed of her body in such a way it has never been found, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

A wealthy architect allegedly murdered his estranged wife and disposed of her body in such a way it has never been found, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Michael Morton, 66, is accused of killing his wife Gracia who was last seen leaving his home in Notting Hill, west London seven years ago after dropping their four-year-old daughter off at school nearby.

Mr Morton was described as "distressed" when his 40-year-old wife, an Argentine-born musician, had walked out on him nine months before her disappearance. Mr Morton, who worked for the Greater London Council before taking early retirement, denies murdering his wife, whose body has never been found.

The Old Bailey heard that it was on 12 November 1997 - only several weeks before she was due to divorce him - that Mrs Morton, a violinist, was last seen visiting the family home.

Their ten-year marriage had been "beset with difficulties", leading to Mrs Morton leaving her husband in February that year, taking their daughter to settle in a flat in nearby Kensington, west London.

The jury was told that Mr Morton had been besotted with his wife, having transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds into her name to avoid paying financial support to a former partner. When she left him, Mr Morton voiced his despair and hinted at committing suicide but remained adamant that she should not divorce him or take his money.

In a fax sent to her sister, he wrote: "I can foresee no prospect of happiness, remotely equivalent of the distress I would suffer in the loss of my wife and daughter, and my future actions will be directed to minimising distress.

"This isn't a threat - it's common sense."

The court heard that during the months leading up to Mrs Morton's disappearance, the couple had been in dispute over money for their daughter's education. While Mr Morton had a "profound dislike" of private education due to his own experiences at boarding school, his wife was keen for her daughter to attend a private school.

Brian Altman, prosecuting, said: "The prosecution say that it was the particular issue of her schooling that led to argument between them on the morning of Wednesday 12 November, 1997, shortly before Garcia's disappearance ... He was the last person to see her alive. Gracia Morton has not been seen since and her body has never been recovered.

"The extensive police investigation into her disappearance has established that to all intents and purposes Gracia Morton's life ended that Wednesday morning."

Following her disappearance, Mrs Morton's bank accounts was untouched and she had not made contact with her family. Mr Altman said: "According to her family it would have been inconceivable for Gracia to have left her daughter in this way. She was the most important person in her life and Gracia was planning for her future."

The court was also told Mr Morton complained his wife was "stealing his money and that was the only reason she had married him".

Several months before her disappearance, Mr Morton claimed that up to £480,000 from an investment portfolio he had opened in her name was in dispute.

The trial continues.