A "dangerous and manipulative" property developer who strangled his cancer-suffering partner and was on his way to dispose of her body when he crashed his van has been jailed for life.
John Doyle, 54, will serve a minimum of 16 years for stabbing solicitor Sian Rees before throttling her with a bra at their home hours after she had undergone major surgery for breast cancer.
Divorcee Doyle, who has a previous conviction for an attack in which he tried to throttle his then estranged wife 21 years ago, attacked 50-year-old Ms Rees after she decided to end their strained relationship of 15 years on June 30 last year.
Earlier that day he had arrived to drive her home from the hospital but was so drunk from an all-day drinking session that she had to go against medical advice and get behind the wheel herself.
She booked a hotel room on the way home but continued with Doyle to collect clothes. She never made it back to the hotel.
En route to disposing of her body the next morning, he crashed his white Ford Fiesta van into a hedge and her body was discovered between the front seats. She had been dead for 12 hours.
Doyle, who was working on renovating their home at Merton Mill, near Hatherleigh in Devon, to start a joint property business, claimed he acted in self-defence after she brandished a knife, but the jury of eight women and four men at Exeter Crown Court rejected his defence, described by Judge Graham Cottle as "preposterous".
In a statement released after Doyle was sentenced to serve a minimum of 16 years in prison, two of Ms Rees' friends, Marion Boyle and Sally Griffiths, said they had been distressed by the "calculating and degrading manner" in which he had tried to cover up the death of a "a loving, compassionate, generous, clever and funny friend and colleague".
"She was about to embark on a wonderful new phase of her life and this opportunity was cruelly snatched away from Sian by John Doyle," they said.
"Every devious step he took after killing Sian was aimed at hiding the evidence and concealing the truth that he had subjected her to a vicious and prolonged attack on the very day of her cancer surgery when she was plainly less able to defend herself.
"His demeanour throughout the trial, and continued assertions of innocence in the face of the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, has added to the pain felt by Sian's friends who have had to wait for months to hear what happened on the day of Sian's death.
"He has shown no remorse for his actions and clearly feels none."