Spiritualist minister 'killed wife who discovered secret sex life'

Body was found in undergrowth five months after she disappeared

An award-winning BBC make-up artist was murdered by her spiritualist minister husband and dumped in woodland after she uncovered his catalogue of sexual lies, a court was told yesterday.

David Chenery-Wickens, 51, had the "clearest motive and the obvious opportunity" to kill his 48-year-old wife Diane, a jury at Lewes Crown court heard. He is alleged to have killed his wife in January last year after she found out he had been cheating on her with other women and had been calling a gay sex line, the prosecution said. The court heard that when Mr Chenery-Wickens's double life faced exposure he murdered his wife and hid her body. Then he went about creating even more lies, concocting a story to make it appear to her family and the police that Mrs Chenery-Wickens had disappeared of her own accord.

Opening the case, Philip Katz QC, for the prosecution, said: "The veil was lifting from Diane's eyes and he [David Chenery-Wickens] had the clearest motive and the obvious opportunity to get rid of his wife."

Mrs Chenery-Wickens's body was found in undergrowth in Uckfield, East Sussex, last May, five months after the prosecution say she was murdered. The state of her remains meant Mr Katz was unable to tell the jury how, when and where she was killed. "But it's clearly murder," the prosecutor said. "And the evidence points to it having happened on the evening of 22 January 2008."

Mr Katz said on that date Mrs Chenery-Wickens was alone at the couple's cottage in Duddleswell, East Sussex, when she noticed strange phone numbers on their bill. When she dialled one number she was connected to the voicemail of a woman the prosecution allege that Mr Chenery-Wickens was having an affair with. The second number was a gay sex chatline.

Mr Katz said: "No doubt when the defendant returned home shortly afterwards there was some sort of confrontation. The Crown says that the defendant – rather than see his deceitful life fall to pieces – killed Diane, his wife, and got rid of the body. He subsequently set about lying to the police and to the world."

He claimed his wife had disappeared on a trip to London for a meeting at the BBC, where she had won an Emmy and been nominated for a Bafta after working on shows including Dead Ringers, The League of Gentlemen, Casualty and Arabian Nights.

Mr Chenery-Wickens denies murder. The trial continues.