Landowner guilty of murdering missing wife

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The Independent Online

A wealthy landowner was found guilty today of murdering his estranged wife, who has been missing for more than two years.

Retired teacher Kate Prout, 55, vanished from the £1.2 million farm she shared with her husband Adrian Prout during acrimonious divorce proceedings.

Prout, 47, from Redmarley, Gloucestershire, was found guilty of her murder at Bristol Crown Court today, even though a body has never been found.



Prout, who has become a father with his fiancee, Debbie Garlick, since Mrs Prout's disappearance, was motionless when the verdict was read out.

Mrs Prout's family - including her brother, Richard Wakefield - and Ms Garlick all burst into tears after the jury returned a majority verdict of 10 to one.

Prout, who was wearing a black suit and blue shirt, was told by Mr Justice Nigel Davis that he would receive a life sentence but reserved sentencing until Monday.



After the verdict, Mr Wakefield, 59, from Lypiatt, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, appealed to Prout to reveal where he had hidden Mrs Prout's body.

He said: "Nothing will bring Kate back to us, but we are pleased that justice has been done.

"It is a big relief that the trial has ended with this verdict and this will go some way towards allowing us to move forward.

"We would, however, appeal to Adrian to tell us what happened to Kate and where she is because we would like to lay her to rest and say our goodbyes."



The jury heard Mrs Prout confronted her husband with an increased divorce demand the day before she went missing - November 5 2007.

The couple were living in Redhill Farm, in Redmarley, a 276-acre property purchased in 2004 for £820,000 and later valued at £1.2 million.

Prout offered his wife a settlement of £600,000, but after discussion with accountants she decided to demand £800,000.

Crown prosecutor Paul Dunkels told the jury Mrs Prout had a "volatile personality".

He said: "She could be rude, had a short temper and she would have tantrums. This was reflective in the character of her relationship with the defendant."

The couple met and married in 2000, when Prout was living in a caravan.

Prout owned a successful pipe-laying business and a commercial shoot and was able to pay off a "substantial" amount of the mortgage on Redhill Farm.

Mrs Prout felt her husband gave too much time to his work and too little attention to her, the jury heard.

Prout moved his daughter from a previous relationship into the couple's home in 2006, which created "friction" in the household.

Mrs Prout left diary accounts of arguments during which Prout, from Redmarley, Gloucestershire, threatened to kill her.

The jury heard Mrs Prout recalled an incident in February 2007 when, according to her, Prout "threatened to kill her" by pushing her in the empty swimming pool at their home.

After a brief attempt at reconciliation, the Prouts decided to proceed with divorce.

Mrs Prout rented a holiday cottage in September 2007 with her half-sister near Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Mrs Prout made arrangements for housesitter Diane Bellamy to care for the home while she was away. Ms Bellamy would look after the four dogs, collect chicken's eggs and make meals for Prout.

Following this visit, Prout, who had remained at the farm, continued to see Ms Bellamy and a friendship was formed.

Shortly before Prout reported his wife missing, he and Ms Bellamy met for lunch at a pub near Gloucester where he told her someone had "taken" Mrs Prout away.

Mr Dunkels told the jury: "The defendant appeared to be uptight, saying she had been horrible to his daughter. Diane Bellamy confronted him, asking him what he had done.

"He replied 'Don't ask me. They've taken her away. Don't ask me any questions'."

Ms Bellamy received a text message from Prout on the morning of November 5 which read: "I love you Di."

Mrs Prout confronted her husband with an increased divorce settlement demand on November 4 - the day before her disappearance.

A series of phone calls were made and faxes sent by Mrs Prout in the run-up to November 5, the jury heard.

The last time anyone heard from her was 3.29pm, when she called her bank First Direct.

Since then no agencies had any contact with her, including banks and passport agencies.

In evidence, Prout denied murdering his wife, but conceded there was a risk he would have to sell his "dream" farm to meet her £800,000 divorce demand.

Prout told the jury he "would like to think" his wife is not dead.

Prout last saw her after they had a "low key" row over her cooking him too big a lunch, he said.



After the verdict, Acting Detective Superintendent Neil Kelly, who led the investigation, said Prout had shown "no remorse" for his actions.

He said: "We are pleased with the outcome of the trial as it marks a successful conclusion to a very lengthy and painstaking investigation.

"This investigation proved particularly challenging for the force because the body of Kate Prout has never been found.

"This has made what happened more distressing for her family, who have never been able to say a proper goodbye.

"Throughout the investigation and the trial, Adrian Prout has shown no remorse for his actions and has failed to assist the police in any way."