Police say second husband of 'Black Widow' was murdered

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The Independent Online

A murder inquiry has been launched into the suspicious death nearly eight years ago of an advertising manager married to a fraudster nicknamed the "Black Widow".

New scientific evidence suggests there was foul play in the case of Julian Webb, who was found dead in July 1994 at the home he shared with his wife, Dena, at Yapton, West Sussex.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Mr Webb died on his 31st birthday from an overdose of painkillers and anti-depressants. But friends were puzzled and the coroner at the inquest recorded an open verdict, saying he was sure Mr Webb would not have taken his own life.

In July 2000, his widow was cleared of attempting to murder Richard Thompson, her third husband, whom she wed while still married to Mr Webb.

Mr Thompson claimed he was attacked with a baseball bat and carving knife during a bondage game at the couple's home in Rustington, West Sussex. But Mrs Thompson told Lewes Crown Court that her husband attacked her after learning she was trying to swindle him out of thousands of pounds. The jury accepted her self-defence claim. But Mrs Thompson was jailed for three years and nine months for defrauding him and two other lovers of £12,000.

Three months after the case closed, detectives exhumed Mr Webb's body from a graveyard at Hayling Island, Hampshire, for further tests using new techniques. A second post-mortem examination was performed and samples were sent to Dr Hans Sach, who worked on the case of the serial killer Dr Harold Shipman. Police are now treating the case as murder.

Police refused to disclose yesterday whether they had interviewed Mrs Thompson, 42, who was released from jail last year and is believed to be living in the West Country.