Natalia Strelchenko: Man who 'beat concert pianist wife to death was jealous', court told

'This is quite simply a case of anger – pure and simple anger'

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The Independent Online

A world-renowned concert pianist was strangled and beaten to death by her jealous musician husband after he “lost his temper” on their second wedding anniversary, a court was told.

Russian-born Natalia Strelchenko, 38, also known as Natalia Strelle, was found with head and neck injuries at the Manchester home she shared with Norwegian double bass player John Martin in August last year.

She had been struck with such force that her jawbone was snapped in half and her facial bones were floating free from the rest of her skull.

Mr Martin, 48, was jealous because his wife’s career had taken off while his had not, a jury at Manchester Crown Court was told.

“This is quite simply a case of anger – pure and simple anger,” prosecutor Robert Hall said. “This defendant was not getting what he wanted and reached a point where he lost his temper in a very dramatic fashion.”

Mr Martin denies the murder, or manslaughter, of his wife. He has also pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a male youth who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Ms Strelchenko had played piano from the age of eight and became a talented pianist, gaining entry to the prestigious St Petersburg State Conservatory. At the “peak of her powers”, Mr Hall said, she performed in concerts with a full orchestra.

On the night of the alleged murder a Polish violinist friend stayed the night with the couple at their home in Newton Heath, Manchester, and said she witnessed Mr Martin throwing himself and Ms Strelchenko down the stairs before strangling her.

The woman fled and raised the alarm. Martin, who was in an upstairs bedroom when police arrived, repeatedly shouted “kill me” as he was arrested. He later told police he had no recollection of what had happened.

Mr Hall said Mr Martin still maintains he has no memory of the events of 30 August last year. “The mental state of the defendant will become an important consideration for you as the trial progresses,” Mr Hall told the jury.

Ms Strelchenko had moved to Manchester in 2009 following the breakdown of her first marriage and met the defendant a year later. They had, Mr Hall told the jury, a tempestuous relationship and police had been repeatedly called to their home.

“She complained that the defendant controlled her,” he told the jury. “He was very jealous if she was out with him – jealousy made worse by the fact that, to all intents and purposes, her career had taken off while his had not. They would also argue regularly about such matters as financial affairs and who should keep the house clean.”

In early August last year, the jury was told, Mr Martin threw Ms Strelchenko out of the house. She returned three days before her death but relations remained tense, the jury heard. On the night Ms Strelchenko died, Mr Martin left the house and texted the word “hopeless” to a friend. When he returned to the house, Mr Hall said, his mood was “particularly threatening”. The trial continues.