Teacher bludgeoned wife to death because she had affair, court told

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A teacher bludgeoned his wife to death because she was having an affair with a mutual colleague, a court was told yesterday.

The couple's two young sons were upstairs when Mark Parnham, 36, allegedly beat his wife, Jillian, with a metal bar in a "jealous rage". He then ransacked the house before, covered in blood, going to neighbours' homes and claiming the family had been the victims of a violent burglary, Lewes Crown Court was told.

The Parnhams, described as "extremely devoted", both worked at Millais girls' school in Horsham, West Sussex, where the 39-year-old wife had begun an affair with Christopher Worth, another teacher.

Mr Parnham had been "brooding" for some time about the liaison, Philip Katz QC, for the prosecution, said. On the evening of 3 March last year, the couple started arguing.

Mr Parnham repeatedly attacked his wife, a maths teacher, with a six-inch metal rod. She died from massive head injuries, her body covered in 73 external wounds.

"The fact that he killed his wife is not going to be in dispute," Mr Katz said. "The case is that during the evening, in a fit of jealous rage, he used a metal bar to beat his wife to death, repeatedly hitting her on the head and body."

The information technology teacher then attempted to cover his tracks by overturning furniture in the blood-spattered lounge before knocking on two neighbours' doors.

Mr Katz: "He lied to neighbours, the emergency services, paramedics, police and to doctors about having been attacked by two men in balaclavas. He threw the weapon that he had used to kill his wife into the front garden to make it look as if intruders had made their getaway in that direction."

Mr Katz said Mr Parnham later abandoned his story and admitted he had taken the weapon from the metalwork department of the large comp-rehensive. But he insisted his wife was the first person to launch an attack and he had only reacted violently after having to disarm her twice.

Mr Katz said: "The Crown say that even on that story there is really no question of him acting at the time in lawful self-defence because his wife was unarmed and smaller than he was.

"He said he had behaved like an animal. The Crown is sceptical about his explanation of what the metal bar was doing in the house. He had been brooding for some time that he knew his wife was having an affair with a colleague at the school."

Rebecca Nicholson, a colleague, told the court she had been at the house early that evening while her husband, Andrew, discussed the school band with Mrs Parnham. She described the pair as "lovey dovey" and devoted to their sons, aged four and 18 months.

Under cross-examination by Michael Wood QC, for the defence, Mrs Nicholson said that less than a month before the killing Mr and Mrs Parnham both arrived at school with injuries. "We all thought they had fallen down the stairs while Mr Parnham was carrying Jill in some kind of romantic gesture," she said.

Mr Parnham of Mill Mead, Ashington, West Sussex, denies murdering his wife at the family home.

The trial continues.