'Conman' killed wife and claimed £500,000

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The Independent Online

A Businessman described by police as "the ultimate conman" was jailed for life yesterday after a jury convicted him of murdering his wife and trying to claim £500,000 on a life assurance policy.

Randle Williams strangled his wife, Natalie, and drowned her in a river near their home in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire.

Williams, 43, had told police that his 33-year-old wife had disappeared after taking the dog for a late-night walk in April last year. She was found the next day in the river.

The jury at Bristol Crown Court took only four hours to decide that the dead woman's husband was a murderer.

After the conviction, Detective Sergeant Andy Cross said: "This dishonest ultimate conman has attempted to spin a web of lies and deceit in his arrogant belief that he had the ability to con the police and jury into believing that someone else murdered his wife."

Police described Williams as an "inveterate liar" who thought people would just believe him.

In June 1994, Williams was convicted of theft, forgery and counterfeiting and in November 1986 was convicted of other deception charges.

The court was told how Williams helped set up a computer software business that at one stage was worth about £12m, but it collapsed and he started to fall heavily into debt. A friend lent him £70,000, which he said was to buy his parents a retirement home but which he had spent on a Porsche Boxster for his wife with the personalised number plate X111 NAT. The friend wanted his money back, but Williams had no way of repaying it.

Williams was also trying to buy a £525,000 converted barn in Hampshire, which he could not pay for. On the day his wife was killed, Williams failed to complete the purchase, leaving him with a £50,000 bill.

The failed businessman had also been trying to take out £665,000 of life assurance for himself and his wife, which would be paid to the surviving spouse.

After his wife's death he tried to claim on an accidental death benefit worth £500,000, without telling the company that he had been charged with murder.

As well as having a financial motive, Williams was a jealous husband, attacking neighbours he suspected of having affairs with his wife.

She had been unfaithful both before and after their marriage, and at the time of her death was exchanging explicit e-mails with a male colleague from the department store in Bath where she worked.

Williams first met Natalie in 1995, and proposed to her just three weeks after they started seeing each other. They married on Valentine's Day 1997.

The precise circumstances of how Mrs Williams was killed are unknown, but detectives believe that Williams probably surprised his wife at the river bank, where he strangled and drowned her.

He then changed into swimming trunks, waded out with the corpse and sank it.

He returned to his house, showered and then carried soiled items wrapped in a travel rug to his car, driving somewhere near by to dump them.

Police believe that after Williams reported his wife missing, he did not expect the scale of their investigation.

Police mounted surveillance on him and released details to the press in an attempt to make him lead them to the evidence.

He was twice seen visiting a lay-by called Biss Bottom, near Warminster, where clothing and other items were then found, and he was arrested and charged. Williams's DNA and river mud was found on the evidence.

Sentencing Williams, Mr Justice Brian Keith said: "Why you killed her and what led up to it, we shall never know. Natalie knew, but she has taken her knowledge of it to the grave.

"All we do know is that you cruelly brought the life of this lively and attractive young woman to a premature end."