Whistle-blower jailed for hiring hitman to kill wife: 'Mercenary' was offered pounds 10,000 to shoot woman. Will Bennett reports

STANLEY ADAMS, who once won international praise for exposing illegal price-fixing by a major drugs company, was jailed for 10 years yesterday for hiring a hitman to kill his wife.

The jury took less than two hours to convict Adams of soliciting Tony Cox, a former member of a secret British Army unit in Northern Ireland, to kill his third wife, Deborah, so that he could claim pounds 500,000 in life insurance.

Judge Peter Fallon told Adams: 'You have been found guilty by the jury on the clearest possible evidence. It is true that you destroyed a very good reputation as a result of this offence.

'No one hearing what has gone on in this court can conclude other than that this was a wicked, calculated and despicable offence to end your wife's life for substantial financial gain.'

Bristol Crown Court was told that Adams, 66, of Chilthorne Domer, near Yeovil, Somerset, had offered pounds 10,000 to Mr Cox, who had replied to an advertisement for a mercenary which the defendant had placed in a magazine.

Adams told Mr Cox that he was acting as an intermediary for people who wanted a relative, who was suffering from cancer, murdered. The former soldier told police who soon realised that the intended victim was Mrs Adams, 45.

Telephone calls were recorded and letters monitored by the police as the two men discussed the shooting which was to have taken place on the Greek island of Kos last year. Adams booked a holiday for himself and his wife there.

He was arrested after a meeting with Mr Cox in Bristol two months before the holiday, and it was later discovered that he had doubled his wife's life insurance policies to pounds 500,000 without her knowledge, and that he had financial problems.

The defendant claimed in court that he had contacted Mr Cox because he wanted him to frighten his wife's sister-in-law, Jennifer Shepherd, after a row over an inheritance. He said he decided to drop the plan but did not tell Mr Cox because he was scared of him.

In 1973, Adams revealed to the European Economic Community that Hoffman-La Roche, the giant Swiss-based drugs company for which he worked, was breaking the law by price-fixing.

The company was fined, but the EEC told Hoffman-La Roche who its source was and Adams was arrested in Switzerland. His second wife committed suicide while he was in prison and he was later awarded pounds 200,000 compensation.

He became a hero, particularly to those on the political left and, after coming to live in Britain, the Maltese-born businessman was elected Chancellor of St Andrew's University. He also lectured on business ethics.

During the case it was revealed that Mr Cox was a former member of an undercover British Army unit in Northern Ireland, called the Military Reaction Force, which is now being investigated over the killing of a civilian.

Because of fears for his personal safety, Mr Cox gave evidence from behind a screen and the press and public had to leave the court while he was brought in through the judge's entrance.

(Photograph omitted)

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