Hotelier convicted of murdering 'missing' wife: Man killed wife and plotted to murder son-in-law

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The Independent Online
A HOTELIER was yesterday given a life sentence for the murder of his wife who disappeared nearly 11 years ago.

Peter Taylor, 65, also received concurrent sentences totalling 12 years for soliciting a man to commit the murder, and nine years later conspiring with his daughter Susan Smith to murder her husband, Howard, and for soliciting his murder. Mr Justice Auld made a hospital order under the Mental Health Act for Smith.

Earlier, the Winchester Crown Court jury found Taylor, of Bournemouth, Dorset, guilty of soliciting Louis Matthews, a convicted burglar, to murder Monica Taylor in a contract killing. Mr Matthews said Taylor offered him pounds 500 to carry out the murder, which he declined.

Mrs Taylor, 53, a mother of three, was last seen alive in April 1982. She and Taylor ran a holiday flats business in Bournemouth, but they separated and he began living with a Venezuelan language student, Rosa, whom he later married.

The Taylors, who had been married since 1948, were going through an acrimonious divorce with arguments about the financial settlement. Mrs Taylor twice attempted suicide. Days after she disappeared a court hearing relating to the financial problems was scheduled to be held.

In 1982, Taylor contacted Matthews, who pretended to try and find someone prepared to do the murder, then said he had been unable to do so. Taylor killed his wife himself, and married Rosa in 1986. After his arrest she returned to Venezuela.

The similarity between that situation and the one of Taylor's daughter was what struck police. There were marriage difficulties, arguments about financial settlements and a court hearing was pending.

Nine years after murdering his wife, whose body was never found, Taylor plotted with his daughter to kill her husband. In 1991 Taylor spoke to two men, known as Derek and Martin, to arrange the contract killing.

He made a down payment of pounds 2,000 and it was arranged Mr Smith should be killed while walking his dog near his country home at Dousland, near Tavistock, Devon. Using the code word 'Teacher', Susan Smith telephoned Derek at a phone box giving him a message to go ahead. Derek and Martin, however, were undercover detectives and Taylor and his daughter, then a production assistant with Television South West, were arrested.

Taylor and Smith, 42, of Dousland, Devon, both admitted conspiring to murder her husband. Henry Blacksell, for the prosecution, said the Crown accepted Smith knew nothing of the events in 1982 when her father had murdered her mother.

The hearing was told Smith, who has eight-year-old twins, was psychologically terrorised by her husband. At the time she was going through divorce proceedings but living in the same house as her husband. She told police: 'It was him or me.' She said he seemed to be unbalanced and capable of doing nasty things to their children, and had made threats.

Smith was said to have paid pounds 1,000 towards the pounds 2,000 down payment given to the undercover detectives.

The judge told her that ordinarily a substantial period of imprisonment should result but there were exceptional circumstances in her case.

Taylor, who received a life sentence for his wife's murder, was given six years on each of the charges of soliciting a man to murder his wife, conspiring with his daughter to murder Mr Smith, and soliciting his murder. The last two sentences were concurrent but consecutive with the first, making a total of 12 years, to run concurrently with the life sentence.

(Photographs omitted)