Millionaire gets life sentence for murdering escort girlfriend
A multi-millionaire property developer who brutally strangled his escort girlfriend after learning of her plans to blackmail him has been jailed for life.
Peter Morgan, 54, will spend at least 25 years in prison for murdering Georgina Symonds, 25, at her home in Llanmartin, Newport.
The father-of-two paid Miss Symonds, a former burlesque dancer, up to £10,000 per month and allowed her to live rent-free at the £300,000 bungalow he owned with his estranged wife.
Yet when the chicken shed entrepreneur - who is worth £20 million - discovered she planned to show his wife and daughters intimate pictures she had of him he callously strangled her with a homemade ligature before attempting to cover up his crime.
Newport Crown Court heard an increasingly paranoid Morgan had installed a listening device, disguised as a white plug adapter, in the bungalow in November 2015.
In the months that followed he made hundreds of calls to the device - saved on his iPhone as Isobel.
On the evening of January 10 he again called the device and overheard Miss Symonds talking to her lover, Tom Ballinger, discussing blackmail, fleecing Morgan, moving to London and returning to escort work.
She had previously told Morgan it was his fault that social services would take her five-year-old daughter away from her. However, this was not the case.
After overhearing the phone call, Morgan made a list on his iPhone of the items he needed to murder his young lover.
He drove to the bungalow on January 12 and strangled her before packaging her body and hiding it in an outbuilding near the farmhouse where his wife and two daughters lived.
The millionaire, who has since been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, later confessed to police and directed them to the body.
Morgan, of Llanellen, Abergavenny, had admitted killing Miss Symonds but denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility and loss of control. But a jury rejected his claims and convicted him unanimously of murder.
Jailing him for life, Mr Justice Garnham said: "You have been convicted of the murder by strangulation of Georgina Symonds.
"That murder, of a woman you said you loved, was carefully planned and calmly executed.
"It ended the life of a young woman who, whatever her faults, was very greatly loved by her family and friends.
"You killed her out of cold anger at what you discovered she had done, and out of fear at what she might do in the future."
The judge said Morgan had planned to kill Miss Symonds after overhearing the blackmail conversation on the listening device.
"You learned, in essence, that Georgina Symonds had absolutely no respect and absolutely no time for you," he said.
"You might have loved her but she did not even like you.
"These were circumstances you simply could not tolerate. You could not give in to blackmail and continue to put up with this abuse at the hands of the young woman to whom you had become devoted.
"You could not accept after all you had given her, all you had done for her, all the love you had shown her, that she could treat you like this - deliberately hurt you for no good reason, deliberately exploit you financially when you had given her so much, and then threaten to humiliate you before your daughters.
"And so you resolved to put a stop to it all."
The judge said that by its verdict, the jury had rejected Morgan's claims of both diminished responsibility and loss of self-control.
He added: "This killing was premeditated and carefully planned.
"In my judgment you must have caused Miss Symonds significant mental and physical suffering in the minutes before her death, as you strangled her, paused to speak to her, strangled her again, paused to get her reaction and then tightened the ligature for a final time.
"She would have realised over those minutes that you were intent on holding her down, tightening that ligature and slowly snuffing the life out of her."
In a statement released after the verdict, Deborah Symonds, Miss Symonds' mother, said: "The death of my daughter Georgina has been a devastating tragedy for the whole of our family.
"Her beautiful daughter has been left without a mum. Georgina has left a hole in our lives that will never be repaired.
"All of our happy memories will be kept forever in our hearts."
Detective Superintendent Roger Fortey, who led the investigation, said: "The actions of Peter Morgan were calculated and he committed the act without emotion."