Wife's family slam M1 crash killer
The family of a woman murdered by her husband in a motorway crash have condemned him for keeping control of her assets, including her ashes.
Relatives of Tracy Walters called for a change in the law to prevent a repeat of Ian Walters' decision to arrange his wife's funeral despite being suspected of her murder.
Walters, who used next-of-kin rights to have his wife's body cremated, was convicted of her murder at Leicester Crown Court today.
The 51-year-old church treasurer stared intently at the jury foreman as he was found guilty of killing his wife by deliberately veering off the M1 at up to 84mph.
Walters, of Tregantle Walk, Swindon, Wiltshire, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years after a judge described him as a "narcissistic" bully who had behaved like a spoiled child.
His six-week trial heard that Mrs Walters, 48, died two days after suffering severe injuries when her husband's Mitsubishi L200 pick-up "imploded" on an embankment beside the M1 in Leicestershire.
In a statement issued after Walters was sentenced, relatives of Mrs Walters described the life term as "some justice" for her murder.
Speaking on behalf of her family outside court, her brother-in-law, Dave Smart, said relatives had been left mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Commenting on Walters' actions following the killing in March last year, Mr Smart said: "Because he could not face the humiliation of a second divorce we lost someone who was a massive part of our family.
"Ian was under suspicion from day one.
"He was the only suspect, yet he maintained his next-of-kin rights, was allowed to claim Tracy's body and arrange and attend her funeral.
"You cannot begin to comprehend the distress this family was made to deal with because of that."
Mr Smart, accompanied by Mrs Walters' sons from a previous marriage, her mother and other close relatives, added: "Tracy was cremated on May 30th 2014, and Ian was formally charged with murder on June 3rd.
"He has maintained complete control of his victim's assets until today, including her ashes, which are still held at a funeral director's in Swindon.
"This cannot be right. There must be a change in the law."
The victim's family had loved her unconditionally, said Mr Smart, who described Walters' actions as cowardly.
The trial heard that Walters was in a "volatile" mood when he crashed as he and his wife returned home from a make-or-break week away at a cottage in North Yorkshire.
Jurors deliberated for four and a half hours before unanimously convicting the driving test examiner.
Police charged Walters after CCTV footage showed his vehicle moving from the M1's middle lane to the hard shoulder moments before it crashed.
The former bank worker told jurors he could think of "no reasonable reason" for the crash and could remember nothing for more than two hours beforehand.
But a police inquiry established that Walters and his wife, who married in Cyprus in 2012, had sought counselling after a string of rows caused by his unreasonable sexual demands.
During the trial it emerged that Mrs Walters sent a series of urgent text messages to relatives in the run-up to the killing.
In one of the "panicked" texts, she wrote: "He's done it again. He's hurt my back. Don't want to aggravate him."
In another, sent around 55 minutes before the pick-up left the road at 12.40pm, she told her son: "He's driving and volatile. I need him arrested when we get back."
The Mitsubishi, which is not thought to have braked, ploughed through shrubbery, was airborne for a time after hitting a concrete structure, and eventually struck a line of trees.
Walters, who was estimated to be driving at between 74mph and 84mph, suffered various fractures and spent several weeks in hospital.
Passing sentence, Judge Nicholas Dean QC told Walters: "Since you have not told us what happened before you drove off the M1, it is only what can be pieced together from Tracy's texts that tells us what happened.
"Whilst your actions were not premeditated, your bullying, both physical and psychological, during the morning of the 21st of March, is an aggravating feature in this case.
"I have no doubt that the jury concluded that it was you and your insatiable and unreasonable demands for sex ... that were the root cause of what became a toxic marriage."
Pointing out that the victim had no opportunity to avoid the crash, Judge Dean told her killer: "Before you married Tracy you were a man of good character.
"But your conduct in the marriage demonstrates that, towards Tracy at least, you were a narcissistic, self-centred, self-absorbed bully.
"In my judgment, when you deliberately drove off the motorway, your intention was to kill Tracy.
"You were careless of your own life but you knew as you drove down the M1 that you had lost control over Tracy and killing her was your way of demonstrating that it was you who was in control.
"You have demonstrated no remorse at all for what you did and no regret for any aspect of your behaviour."