Villa killing trial focuses on 'fourth candlestick': Millionaire 'drunk' on night wife died

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The Independent Online
A SET of silver candlesticks, one of which may have been used to bludgeon to death the wife of an expatriate English millionaire, yesterday became the focus of a manslaughter trial in Spain.

Jeremy Lowndes, 66, a former Norfolk landowner who retired to Spain in 1989, is on trial in Cadiz accused of killing his 68-year-old wife, Carmel, at their villa on the Costa del Sol.

Mrs Lowndes was a former wife of the six-times married Earl of Kimberley. Their son, Lord Wodehouse, heir to both her property and the estate of the earl, was visiting the villa in Sotogrande, near Gibraltar, on 21 July 1992, when the killing took place. The former society beauty and daughter of an Australian boxing champion was found dead in a pool of blood. She died of head injuries, thought to have been inflicted by a blunt object.

Mr Lowndes denies the manslaughter of his wife. The prosecution is calling for a 20-year jail term.

Dr Ian West, a British forensic scientist, gave evidence at the trial yesterday. He said Mrs Lowndes appeared to have been struck on the head while on the floor, and said that a candlestick could have been the murder weapon.

During questioning on Wednesday, Mr Lowndes implied that he knew who killed his wife. He said three heavy candlesticks which were his property had been taken to England by his stepson, Lord Wodehouse. A fourth was missing. Lord Wodehouse has insisted that the four candlesticks are at his home in Oxfordshire.

A friend of the couple, James Walker, had been one of eight people at a dinner party in their villa on the night of the murder. He told the court that he had known the couple for 27 years and had never known them to fight. 'They had an exceptional relationship. They were two people who knew how to enjoy life,' he said.

The defence has been trying to establish who entered the villa after the killing, apparently in the hope of tracing the 'missing' candlestick.

A maid and a gardener said they had been refused entry the day after the crime by a friend of the family, named as Robert William St John. In court, Mr William St John said he had gone in to check the villa had been safely locked up. He had not removed anything.

Despite dominating many of the witness statements given to the court, the candlesticks have not been presented as evidence.

The prosecution claims that Mr Lowndes beat his wife to death in a drunken rage. In court on Wednesday, Lord Wodehouse, 43, a research chemist from Henley-on- Thames, said that his stepfather had come into the bedroom he and his wife were sharing at the villa during the night, and had said: 'I think I've killed your mother.'

Mr Lowndes told the court that on the night his wife was killed he was drunk and was on heavy medication. He had bid farewell to the other guests and had collapsed into a ground-floor armchair over a nightcap.

He said he had later heard shouts from his wife's bedroom before going up to find her lying battered on the floor.

The trial resumes on 25 May.