Man jailed for killing wife and dumping body in a lake

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The Independent Online

A British man who killed his wife and dumped her body in a lake after mentally and physically abusing her for years was convicted in France last night and sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Robert Lund, 55, from Darwen, in Lancashire, was found guilty of killing his second wife, Evelyn, whose severely decomposed body was found in a lake two years after she went missing eight years ago from their farmhouse in Rayssac in the south of France.

But the jury at a court in the town of Albi cleared Lund of murder, convicting him only of homicide, apparently believing he did not intend to kill his wife. The five men and four women of the jury rejected Lund's defence, namely that she had accidentally driven into the lake in after a storm.

During the trial, which lasted five days, the court heard that Lund, a former tree cutter, had financially exploited his wife after her first husband, who died of cancer, left her with a sizeable inheritance.

On 29 December 1999, Mrs Lund went missing and it was not until 2001 that her body was found slumped on the back seat of her Toyota Land Cruiser in Lake Bancalie 15 miles away. A horserider spotted the car after a drought caused the lake's water levels to fall. A post-mortem found she had probably died before entering the water but failed to establish the cause of death.

The prosecution argued that Lund had killed his wife and then attempted to make the death look like an accident to live off Mrs Lund's life insurance. Previously, Mrs Lund had received about £1,000 a month from her late husband's pensions, an arrangement thought to have enabled Lund to live a life of idle affluence.

Mrs Lund's family has claimed Lund was poor and living in a caravan when he met his second wife. The court heard how Lund was belittled his wife in public. The couple's relationship was suffering when they moved to France in 1997, and by 1999 they were said to be on the point of divorce.

On the evening of her death Mrs Lund had rowed with her husband and left to visit friends. As they napped, she left a note saying she was going to feed her animals and departed from the house unnoticed, never to be seen alive again.

It is thought she then returned to the farmhouse and had another argument. Crucially, Mrs Lund's spectacles – which she needed for driving – were found at the farmhouse. Lund gave seven explanations for why the glasses were not with Mrs Lund when she died.