Former airline pilot Iain Lawrence jailed for life for killing his wife by deliberately crashing car after disabling airbag

He unclipped her seatbelt moments before their car struck tree

A former airline pilot has been jailed for life for killing his wife by deliberately crashing his car into a tree after disabling her airbag.

Iain Lawrence was found guilty of murdering his wife Sally by a jury after a three-week trial at Leicester Crown Court.

High Court judge Mr Justice Leggatt told the 53-year-old he would serve a minimum term of 24 years.

Prosecutors said Lawrence adopted the brace position in the crash as Mrs Lawrence, who was not wearing a seat-belt, died almost instantly.

Friends and family of Mrs Lawrence cheered and shouted "Yes" as the verdict was read out.

Lawrence had denied deliberately driving his car into a tree to murder his 47-year-old wife and claimed it was an accident.

But the jury of six men and six women took just over eight hours today to convict him of murder by a majority verdict of 11-1.

Lawrence, wearing a grey suit, stared straight ahead in the dock.

The court heard that Lawrence disabled the passenger airbag of his red Peugeot before the crash in Gartree Road in Oadby, Leicestershire, on October 6 last year and, in the moments before the car struck the tree, unclipped his wife's seatbelt.

Sentencing Lawrence today, Mr Justice Leggatt said: "The way in which you killed Sally was both brutal and carefully planned.

"You must have singled out the spot on the Gartree Road - a road you knew well - as a place that suited your purpose: a large tree with clear ground in front of it on a gentle bend in the road."

He said Lawrence disabled the passenger airbag "in preparation" for what he planned to do.

Mr Justice Leggatt continued: "How you got Sally into your car, and whether by trickery or force, no-one but you can know. I suspect it was a combination of the two. However you achieved it, she cannot have imagined what you were planning to do next.

"The evidence at this trial has clearly established how you killed Sally. As you approached the spot which was your target you reached across and unclipped her seatbelt. Then you steered the car at the tree and drove straight into it at over 50mph.

"You aimed so that the passenger's side of the car struck the tree and bore the full brunt of the collision. You had the protection of an airbag and seatbelt - protection you had made sure that Sally did not have - and, to protect yourself further, you got into the brace position before the crash.

"It was not chance but the result of your careful and cold- blooded planning that you came away from the collision with a few bruises while Sally died of catastrophic injuries.

"You thought that the crash would be seen as a tragic accident and that you would get away with murder. You would indeed have done so if it had not been for the careful and thorough investigation carried out by the police."

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