Guilty: Killer chef Wallner kept wife's body in freezer for three years
A chef is facing a life sentence after being found guilty of killing his wife with a griddle pan and hiding her body in a freezer for three years.
Peter Wallner, 34, thought wife Melanie stood in the way of his womanising so he battered her with the cast iron pan as she slept at their home in Surrey in August 2006, the Old Bailey heard. Her body was later found in a wheelie bin.
He placed the body in a freezer in the garden shed and dumped it in the wheelie bin when he left the country with new girlfriend Lilia Fenech.
But dustmen refused to take the bin from in front of the house in Hamilton Avenue, Cobham, because it was too heavy. The landlord saw an ankle when he looked inside.
Wallner was arrested after he voluntarily returned from Malta last June, following an international media alert. He was found guilty of murder. He had tried to convince the jury of seven men and five women that it was manslaughter. He claimed he had "lost the plot" after Mrs Wallner, 30, hit him with a rolling pin and confronted him about a text message from another woman.
He said he "acted like a scumbag" in trying to persuade her family and friends that she died from natural causes - presenting them with an urn containing ashes from a barbecue. But the prosecution said he killed Mrs Wallner in cold blood as she slept with a mask over her eyes.
The following night he slept on the mattress on which she died with wedding planner Emma Harrison. Wallner had become infatuated with her after they met at the Woodlands Park Hotel, in Surrey, where they both worked. After she dumped him, Wallner went on to have a number of new girlfriends as he played the grieving husband.
German-born Wallner had met his South African wife at a hotel where they were working in 2001, and they married soon afterwards.
Bobbie Cheema, prosecuting, told the jury: "At the core of this case is the brutality and ruthlessness of this killing. She was murdered in cold blood.
"This was a senseless killing motivated by the greed of this man to make way for a different woman in his life. He is arrogant and brazen. He sees himself as a charmer, someone who can explain himself out of just about anything. He simply ignores the flawed nature of his personality motivated by his wandering eye."
Melanie Wallner's father angrily accused chef Peter Wallner of treating his daughter "like rubbish" by putting her body in a wheelie bin.
South African Petrus Van Der Merwe, said: "Melanie wasn't rubbish - anything but.
"Peter Wallner thought it good to gruesomely murder her in the most unthinkable manner and freeze her in his own property for three years.
"After that he threw her away ... like trash, like rubbish in a wheelie bin.
"It haunts me every day to think that, while I was staying in Melanie's house after her 'supposed passing', she was right there in a freezer outside the house.
"That thought eats away at my soul every day of my life.
"Why didn't he just divorce her if he didn't want her any more?"
He said the family had just begun to come to terms with her sudden death when "the dreadful truth of how our beloved daughter actually died was revealed".
"It was as if she died for a second time and the terrible grief returned - this time coupled with anger and betrayal," he said in a statement.
Wallner had travelled to South Africa with lies about how she died and why the family could not be present at her cremation.
"He looked us all straight in the eyes, knowing that it was actually him that had taken Melanie's life.
"He pretended to be devastated when we laid Melanie's supposed ashes to rest on my farm.
"The man that asked for my blessing for my daughter's hand in marriage has gruesomely killed her. My heart and soul was ripped into a million pieces."
Mr Van Der Merwe said of his daughter: "She was always so delightful, happy and spontaneous.
"Melanie was the most amazing person. She had a very bubbly personality and was full of laughter.
"It must have been traumatic for Melanie because she did everything in her power to try and make her marriage work.
"I believe she would have accepted it, if at last it didn't work out."