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Husband murdered wife then staged fake hanging to cover his tracks

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A man has been convicted of murdering his wife of 26 years then staging a hanging to make it look like she had killed herself.

Derek Potter strangled his wife, Lesley, then rigged up a noose in a spare bedroom and faked a hanging.

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The 64-year-old almost got away with the murder – but just two weeks before his wife’s cremation he told a Russian woman in a pub what he had done.

Potter denied murder but was found guilty following a trial at Swansea Crown Court.

The carpenter and former cafe owner murdered his 66-year-old wife at their home in Hill Street, Mumbles, on April 7 this year.

He then rang the emergency services and told them he had found her hanging in rear bedroom after returning from an errand in the village, and tried to save her.

When paramedics and police arrived they found the naked body of his wife laying on a cabinet in the bedroom with a noose around her neck and a length of rope hanging from a beam.

Potter told them he had cut her down.

The death was not originally treated as suspicious, and Mrs Potter’s body prepared for a funeral.

But on April 25 Potter told a Russian woman he had been working with that his wife had been “doing his head in” and he had strangled her.

A few days later the woman went to police to report the conversation and on April 28 – less than two weeks before the planned funeral – Mrs Potter’s body was taken from a chapel of rest back to hospital for a detailed post-mortem.

That examination revealed Mrs Potter had suffered 30 rib fractures as well as internal bruising in her belly and inside her neck, in addition to more than 30 bruises over her neck, face, arms, back, legs and feet.

A Home Office pathologist concluded “manual strangulation” had played a part in her death.

Potter was arrested on suspicion of murder, and began to spin a series of lies to try to explain what had happened, including saying his wife had taken her own life, or could have died while choking herself for sexual pleasure, that she might have died at the hands of a family member, or the Russian roofer, the Masons, or drug dealers.

During the trial the jury heard lurid details of what the defendant claimed was the three-way sexual relationship he and his wife had enjoyed with a lodger called Paul, which involved role-playing, ropes, and erotic asphyxiation.

Potter told the members of the jury he had strangled his wife some 15 times, both for sexual reasons and in temper.

He also told them he believed he had “healing” powers in his hands.

A jury took one hour and seven minutes to unanimously convict him of murder.

He will be sentenced on Thursday.

During the trial Elwen Evans QC, for the prosecution, told the jury that Potter would not be the first defendant “to be caught out by his own hubris”.

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