A jury took just four hours yesterday to decide that Rena Salmon was fully aware of what she was doing when she murdered her husband's lover with a shotgun.
The abandoned wife was convicted of the "cold-blooded" killing of Lorna Stewart, a pregnant beauty salon owner, and sentenced to life. When she was led away from the dock, the 43-year-old began to shake, letting out a sob as she clutched a female jailer's hand.
During the trial, the court was told that Salmon, who had two children, was devastated when she learnt of the affair between her husband, Paul, and her former best friend, which led to the breakdown of their 18-year marriage. But the final straw came when she heard that they were planning to have children.
In a fit of "anger and revenge" she took her husband's double-barrelled shotgun, drove to Ms Stewart's beauty salon in west London, called Equilibrium, and fired twice at close range.
After the verdict was returned yesterday, the prosecuting counsel, Peter Clarke QC, revealed that Ms Stewart had been two months pregnant on the day of her death – 10 September last year. The fact had been kept from the jury because it was deemed to be too emotive and prejudicial.
Judge Denison told Salmon: "You know that there is only one sentence I can pass for the offence of murder – that is the one I do pass: life."
Detective Inspector Steve Morris said outside the court: "This whole episode has been a tragedy for all the families concerned, and the impact on them cannot be overstated. "After all, we have four children of school age without a mother."
He added: "This murder was planned and had been for some days. Rena Salmon ... gave her no opportunity to save herself and gave no thought to the welfare of Lorna's children.
"The court accepted that Salmon may have had a disturbed childhood – but it was wrong of her to use this as a defence for the premeditated and cold-blooded murder of Lorna Stewart."
The trial at the Old Bailey had heard of the extraordinarily calm conversation between the two women in the moments before Ms Stewart's death. The beauty salon owner simply greeted Salmon with the words "So you have come to shoot me?"
The abandoned wife, who served in the Army for 10 years and was trained to use guns, remained equally emotionless before "calmly and unflinchingly" firing two rounds into her. She then made a "chilling" telephone call for an ambulance, saying: "I have shot my husband's mistress."
Salmon, of Great Shefford, Berkshire, admitted killing Ms Stewart but insisted that she had travelled to Equilibrium only to kill herself and shot her rival instead while in a trance-like state. The defence had urged the jury, made up of two women and 10 men, to clear her of murder on the ground of diminished responsibility.
The court was told the Salmons had become friends with Ms Stewart and her husband, Keith Rodrigues, because their children attended the same village school.
But in January last year Mr Rodrigues told Salmon that their spouses were having an affair. Despite attempts at reconciliation, the marriage broke down and Ms Stewart left her husband to set up home in Iver, Buckinghamshire, with Mr Salmon, who is a highly paid IT consultant.
Three days before the shooting, the defendant insisted that she received a taunting telephone call from Ms Stewart, revealing that they were planning to have children. On the eve of her divorce hearing, Salmon went to shoot her rival.
Yesterday, Mr Rodrigues sat at the side of the court holding the hand of Ms Stewart's father, James. As the foreman of the jury returned the "guilty" verdict, he closed his eyes and, as he left, wiped away tears. Mr Stewart, who lives in Rutherglen, near Glasgow, remained seated.
Salmon's brother, Shah Uddin, left the court in an emotional state.
The nine-day trial had heard claims that Salmon, the daughter of a prostitute who grew up in Burnley, Lancashire, had been subjected to racist abuse and was scrubbed with bleach by her mother as a child. Matilda Roberts, her mother, denied yesterday that she was either a prostitute or that she had ever mistreated her children.
Salmon's counsel, Patrick Curran QC, asked the judge to take into account various mitigating points when making recommendations to the Home Secretary on the length of time his client must serve before being considered for parole.
"She has professed profound and genuine remorse for the death," he said. "Whatever the length of the sentence, it will not make up for the loss to Mr Rodrigues and his family."
Later Salmon's solicitor, Tan Ikram, visited her in the cells. He emerged to say: "She is strong. Her main concern is for the families who have been touched by this tragedy. Everyone has been through a lot in this case and she has never disputed what she did."
Mr Ikram added that Salmon was considering an appeal against the verdict.
ANATOMY OF A KILLING
RENA SALMON: The 43-year-old claimed she had been racially abused as a child by her prostitute mother. She ran away from home at 13, was placed into foster care and joined the Army six years later, where she met her future husband. The first of their two children was born in 1989, when Salmon left the military. She enlisted in the Adjutant General's Corps as a clerk until discharged in 1994. After being told of the affair, she became clinically depressed and suffered violent mood swings.
LORNA STEWART: Her killer described the 36-year-old as "slim, blond and bubbly". Originally from Glasgow and the daughter of a quantity surveyor, she was a successful businesswoman – running the Equilibrium salon in Chiswick. A vegetarian, she was interested in spiritualism, astrology and the environment. Ms Stewart was dignified and calm even when facing her killer.
PAUL SALMON: The former army technician met his wife while serving in Northern Ireland. They were reunited in Germany in 1983 and married two years later. Salmon bought himself out of the Army and became an IT executive, earning £85,000 a year. A man who liked a drink and enjoyed game shooting, he was described as brash and confident.
KEITH RODRIGUES: Had hoped he could save his marriage to Lorna Stewart but eventually moved his family back to his native Australia. Described as a house husband, he had looked after their two children Megan, 5, and Kendal, 9. After his estranged wife's death, he wrote: "My wife gave me two special presents throughout our 12 years – our girls."Reuse content