Warren Green, 27, of Gidlow Lane, Wigan, had denied killing his wife Julie, 24, a student nurse, at the couple's home in October 1991. At Liverpool Crown Court a jury took nearly four hours to convict him by a unanimous verdict.
Mr Justice Ognall, passing sentence after the three-week trial, said: 'You have been convicted on the most clear and compelling evidence of the murder of your wife.
'Probably prompted by sex and money, you wanted rid of her. You killed her in a fashion marked by a chilling degree of control and concentration.'
Mrs Green was bludgeoned to death with 16 blows of a lump hammer after she returned from a night shift at a local hospital.
The court was told she was having an affair with Stuwart Skett, a family friend, while Green had developed a passion for a university law student he met at work in Salford, Greater Manchester.
The court was told that Green was set to gain pounds 120,000 in life insurance on his wife's death. He constructed a bogus defence claiming that his wife was murdered by someone to whom she was supplying drugs.
Green claimed he was asleep in bed when his wife returned home. He said he made a search of the house and found her body in a garage which was locked from the inside. He had also pointed the finger at Mr Skett.
Green, wearing a grey suit and blue floral tie, was flanked by three prison officers in the dock. When the jury foreman announced the verdict, he slumped forward in his seat. Mr Justice Ognall told him: 'Even murder as a crime varies in its degree of seriousness, and this was a murder of a very grave kind.'
The judge said that after carrying out the killing Green 'took determined and sophisticated steps in an effort to mislead the police'.
He added: 'These steps included maligning your dead wife as a criminal drugs dealer. It should be recorded that whatever her failings disclosed by the evidence in this trial, she deserves to be remembered as a vivacious, caring and decent young woman.'
Sentencing Green to life imprisonment, the judge said: 'Don't expect to receive consideration for leave on licence for many years.'
The judge commended officers involved in the case. 'The investigation of this crime was marked by persistence and thoroughness which thoroughly deserves public acknowledgement,' he said.
The victim's mother, Dilys Sillitoe, of Wigan, said after the verdict: 'I am glad it is all over. Julie was a really lovely girl, the kind any mother would be proud of and I am glad that justice has been done.'
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