Jealous gardener jailed for murdering lover

A gardener was jailed for life today for battering his lover to death in a jealous rage after finding out she was seeing another man.

Peter Ling, 50, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years after a jury found him guilty of murdering horticultural lecturer Linda Casey, 54.

Mrs Casey's naked body was found in Banstead Woods, Surrey, on August 13 last year.

She had been struck several times in the face with a rock after they had sex in the woods.

Ling, of Wallington, Surrey, had denied murder, claiming manslaughter and blaming Mrs Casey for provoking him by making a remark about his penis being too small.

But the jury of five women and seven men rejected his claim by returning a majority verdict of 11-1 to find him guilty of murder.

Old Bailey Judge Giles Forrester told Ling: "You were jealous, jealous beyond measure."



Judge Forrester said married Ling suspected Mrs Casey was seeing another man after reading her emails.

He added: "She wanted to leave but you would not let her go.

"You pulled her to the ground and in that jealous rage, battered her to death.

"The callousness of taking your wife out to dinner on the very night you murdered your mistress, simply beggars belief."

The judge said Ling's actions in hiding the body under leaves, stealing her mobile and accusing Mrs Casey of provocation, were "heartless, devious and manipulative".

He had killed his lover in a "frenzied attack", said the judge.

Charlotte Evans, one of the victim's three grown-up daughters, paid tribute to her mother, who was a grandmother of seven, in a victim impact statement read out in court.

She said: "Our mum was the rock and foundation of our family. She reared us on her own and we became more like sisters and best friends. Mum was an integral part of our lives.

"She was young and had so much to live for. We had so many plans together and being denied the chance to say goodbye is hard to bear.

"Mum was our mentor. Her enthusiasm, her innocent down to earth view of life and her encouragement has been taken from us."

A family statement released by police said: "She was a passionate gardener and had opened up her own garden to raise money for charity.

"She held down three jobs and had two allotments where we could all spend time together as a family.

"Mum was extremely well educated and accomplished a degree in teaching in her spare time as well as working and being a great mum and nan.

"She was a romantic and loved all the classic novels, poetry and music. She would always be laughing and happy and was a flower child at heart. Her motto was live and let live."



The court heard Ling hid Mrs Casey's car and went on the run before her body was found five days after the attack.

He met Mrs Casey, who was estranged from her second husband, two years earlier at her evening classes at Sutton College.



Mrs Casey had been having an affair with married Ian Tolfrey since 2002 and ran her life and lovers on a "relatively strict schedule".



She would meet Mr Tolfrey at her allotment in South Croydon on Wednesdays and on Fridays would meet at various addresses.



She dated Ling on Thursdays and Saturdays.



Mrs Casey was besotted with Mr Tolfrey but regarded Ling as "a nice man who took her out to dinner and visited gardens together".



John Coffey QC, prosecuting, said: "Her romantic life was less than straightforward. She was conducting affairs with two men at the same time.



"It is clear that Mrs Casey kept her two lovers in ignorance of each other.



"It is also clear that she strongly preferred Mr Tolfrey to the defendant."



Mrs Casey complained just before her death that Ling had become "strange" after finding out about Mr Tolfrey when he read her emails.



During a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society gardens in Wisley, Surrey, she denied his demands for sex in the bushes.



"He had discovered there was another man in her life. He had asked Mrs Casey to have sex in the bushes and she refused, he had burst into tears," said Mr Coffey.



He later sent a text message to her apologising for his behaviour and saying he hoped they would still be friends.



"She gave the impression she was finishing with the defendant because she was bored. She was upset he would contact Ian Tolfrey."



The day before he killed Mrs Casey, Ling's wife Deborah discovered his Facebook page but he denied having an affair when she confronted him.



"He told his wife he did not know if he wanted to stay married and it was like having the same meal every day - sometimes you feel like having something different," said Mr Coffey.



The following day, Mrs Casey agreed to meet Ling at the Ramblers Rest pub in Chipstead and then they went into Banstead Woods.



When her body was found, she had severe injuries to her head and face. Her clothes had been neatly folded in a tree.



Ling told police they had walked over a field to the woods and had sex "although she had been distant with him throughout the meeting".



He said she wanted to put her clothes back on but he refused and felt inadequate when she would not to answer his query about "how he compared to the other man in her life".



Mr Coffey said: "Something inside him snapped and he went crazy. He picked up whatever was lying around and hit her with it."



Ling took Mrs Casey's mobile phone and viewed sexually graphic footage of her and the other man.



Hours after the killing, Lind took his wife out to dinner to a Chipstead pub and said he wanted to stay with her.



A few days later, after Mrs Casey was reported missing, he rang his wife to confess to the affair, adding: "What if I killed her?"



Ling said he had been prepared to give up everything for Mrs Casey but found out about the other man when she forgot to log off a computer after viewing pictures of the Hampton Court flower show.



Emma de Waal, whose husband is a policeman, told the court her mother had love affairs during her two marriages.



Mrs Casey had been agitated when asked about what happened at Wisley.



"She said Peter asked her weird questions and demanded weird stuff like asking to go and have sex in the bushes," said Mrs de Waal.



"She just said no. They were in a nice well-to-do place. He sat on the bench crying.



"He told her she was very cold, she was like a closed book and never talked about anything."



Ling told the court he had enjoyed "spontaneous" sex in parks, woods "or wherever".



"I discovered a life I hadn't known for a long time. It was very, very passionate," he said.



Mr Tolfrey and Mrs Ling were not called as witnesses.

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