Chef gets 20 years for wheelie bin wife murder

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A chef was given a life sentence with a minimum of 20 years today for killing his wife with a griddle pan and hiding her body in a freezer for three years.

Peter Wallner thought wife Melanie stood in the way of his womanising.

So he battered her with the cast iron pan as she slept at their home in Surrey in August 2006, the Old Bailey heard. Her body was later found in a wheelie bin.



Judge Stephen Kramer told Wallner: "Your acts have rightly been described as despicable and appalling.



"You doubtless thought the body would be loaded into a dustcart and compacted so that what you had done would never be discovered."



Wallner showed no emotion and no remorse as the jury of seven women and five men found him guilty of murder.



But just before he was sentenced, his counsel, Nicholas Griffiths QC, said he had been instructed by Wallner to apologise.



He said: "My client has asked me to say he sincerely apologises to the family for what he recognises as an awful thing he did, and for the pain and hurt he caused."



Wallner had tried to persuade family and friends that his wife died from natural causes - even presenting them with an urn full of fake ashes from a barbecue.



He placed his wedding ring with "Melanie" inscribed on it into the urn before it was buried on her father's farm.



Immediately after the verdict, South African Petrus Van Der Merwe angrily hit out at Wallner for treating his daughter's body like "rubbish".



He said: "Melanie wasn't rubbish - anything but.



"Peter Wallner thought it good to gruesomely murder her in the most unthinkable manner and freeze her in his property for three years.



"After that he threw her away... like trash, like rubbish in a wheelie bin."



He added in a statement to the judge: "It haunts me every day to think that, while I was staying in Melanie's house after her 'supposed passing', she was right there in a freezer.



"That thought eats away at my soul every day of my life."



Mrs Wallner's mother, Jeanne Oosthuizen, wept at the side of the court as her statement was read.



She said of her daughter: "It must be devastating for you to know this person, who you referred to as 'the love of your life', was instrumental in your death."



The court was told that Wallner placed the body in a freezer in the garden shed and dumped it in the wheelie bin when he left the country with new girlfriend Lilia Fenech.



But dustmen refused to take the bin from in front of the house in Hamilton Avenue, Cobham, because it was too heavy. The landlord saw an ankle when he looked inside.



Wallner, 34, was arrested after he voluntarily returned from Malta last June, following an international media alert.



He claimed he had "lost the plot" after Mrs Wallner, 30, hit him with a rolling pin and confronted him about a text message from another woman.



He said he "acted like a scumbag" in trying to persuade her family and friends that she died from natural causes.



But the jury agreed with the prosecution which said he killed Mrs Wallner in cold blood as she slept with a mask over her eyes.



The following night he had sex on the mattress on which she died with wedding planner Emma Harrison.



Wallner had become infatuated with her after they met at the Woodlands Park Hotel in Surrey, where they both worked.



After she dumped him, Wallner went on to have a number of new girlfriends as he played the grieving husband.



German-born Wallner had met his wife at a hotel where they were working in 2001, and they married soon afterwards.



Bobbie Cheema, prosecuting, told the jury: "At the core of this case is the brutality and ruthlessness of this killing. She was murdered in cold blood.



"This was a senseless killing motivated by the greed of this man to make way for a different woman in his life.



"He is arrogant and brazen. He sees himself as a charmer, someone who can explain himself out of just about anything.



"He simply ignores the flawed nature of his personality motivated by his wandering eye.



"Last summer, he still thought he could get away with it. He disposed of Melanie as if she was some waste to be dumped in a dustbin."



Miss Cheema added: "He apparently had no qualms about sleeping with Emma in the same bed where his wife had died not 24 hours earlier."



Wallner bought Miss Harrison champagne at a romantic dinner to celebrate his 31st birthday.



Miss Harrison said she thought he was separated from his wife and he later told her she had died suddenly.



She said: "He said he was going to have a private cremation."



Wallner went on to spin a web of lies, sending texts and using Mrs Wallner's credit card, before claiming a week later that she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.



"It was a heartless and sustained effort to stop them discovering the truth, and how it added to their sorrow one can only imagine," said Miss Cheema.



The Thistle Kensington Palace and Park Hotel, where Mrs Wallner worked as an assistant beverages manager, suggested a memorial service.



Miss Cheema said: "The defendant agreed enthusiastically. He helped with the organisation, requesting white lilies and printing memorial cards.



"Around 40 or 50 people attended. He made a speech praising his wonderful wife, but his bearing remained cold and emotionless.



"He was cold, unable to shed a tear and was dealing with the service 'like he was arranging a business meeting'."



A memorial service was also arranged in Pretoria, South Africa, and Wallner was due to bring her "ashes" with him.



"He purchased and filled a funeral urn with ashes of wood he had burnt on his barbecue especially for the purpose," said Miss Cheema.



Mrs Wallner's mother told police: "He said we should look for a blue urn, because she liked the colour."



Wallner spoke at the service and said "he didn't believe in heaven, but he had heaven on Earth with Melanie".



Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall said after the verdict: "Peter Wallner is a cold-blooded killer who brutally murdered his innocent wife and then went to extraordinary lengths to try and conceal his crime.



"His lack of remorse for what he did to Melanie knew no bounds and he told lie after lie in a heartless attempt to evade capture."