A father-of-three driven by jealousy to kill his wife has been jailed for life.
It took the Craigavon Crown Court jury of eight men and four women two days of deliberation to convict 45-year-old Christopher Harper by a majority of 10 to two of murdering of his wife Suzanne (40).
She was found stabbed to death on August 20 last year in the bedroom of the home they shared at The Manor, a quiet cul-de-sac off Portadown's Brownstown Road.
Judge Kevin Finnegan QC told Harper that the sentence for murder was “an automatic one of life and that is the sentence I impose”.
However, Judge Finnegan adjourned fixing the tariff on his sentence until the new year, which will set out the minimum jail term he must serve before being considered for release.
Harper, with an address at Abercorn Park, Portadown, had always denied murdering his wife, who died from a single stab wound to the neck, although she
had several defence wounds to her arm. However, by their verdict, the jury accepted the prosecution case that Harper acted out of jealousy over his wife's affair when he killed her.
They in turn rejected defence claims that Harper was a broken man, who snapped over remarks made by his wife and because of her cheating.
His eight-day trial in Armagh Courthouse heard that after the killing a remorseful Harper, also a grandad of two, left his wallet, a bank book and a note for his eldest daughter, saying he “couldn't take anymore”, before going to police and confessing: “I've done something bad.”
Prosecution QC Margaret-Ann Dinsmore claimed that Mrs Harper had just returned to the family home after being at her mother’s, but while away he had uncovered a letter from the Housing Executive offering her a new home. On the morning she had died, Mrs Harper told her husband of her plans to leave him because she had found someone else and that their marriage “wasn't working”.
Harper then “stormed out the room and got a knife, a black-handled knife”, and on his return, got into bed beside his wife, who repeated: “Nothing is going to change.”
There was then a struggle and Mrs Harper was stabbed once in the neck. Defence QC Martin O'Rourke had claimed that Harper was “not a cold-blooded killer .... but a broken man”, who was at his “wits’ end”.
The defence lawyer also said that Harper was “consumed with guilt and remorse” and that comments allegedly made by his wife about him being subjected to child abuse was “the straw that broke the camel's back”.
His trial also heard that after the killing “an upset and distressed” Harper then went to Lurgan police station, saying he needed to speak to someone about “a serious matter” and that he'd “done something bad”.
It took officers over 45 minutes to tease from him the terrible thing he'd done.
Asked if his wife was the victim, he revealed that it was “too late, she's dead... I know she's dead”, that she could be found in “the bedroom” and that he had used “a knife”.
Harper also told police through his tears: “I need help”, and although his wife was having an illicit affair, and cheated on him before, he still “didn't want her to leave”.
He said that after killing her: “I tried to clean her and put a pair of socks on her because she doesn't like the cold”.
When charged with the killing, Harper replied: “I didn't mean to do it, I'm sorry”.
He then picked up a picture of his wife and daughter and kissing it as it was put in a bag with the rest of his belongings.