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Minimum 24 years for wife killer

A former commercial airline pilot has been jailed for life after being convicted of deliberately driving his car into a tree to murder his wife in an "act of pure evil" .

Iain Lawrence, 53, had disabled the passenger airbag and moments before ploughing his car into the tree unclipped his wife Sally's seatbelt, because he could not cope with the break-up of their 12-year marriage.

Speaking after the sentencing at Leicester Crown Court, Catherine Kudhail, Mrs Lawrence's sister, said: "Our family is here today because of the cruel, callous, evil and sickening act of murder against our beautiful Sally. On the day Sally died, a part of us died with her."

High Court judge Mr Justice Leggatt told Lawrence he would serve a minimum of 24 years in prison for the "brutal and carefully planned" murder. The sentence came after a jury of six men and six women took just over eight hours to convict him of murder by a majority of 11-1 following a three-week trial.

During the trial, the jurors heard the couple's marriage had begun to break down in 2007 but Lawrence would not accept the split and remained at the couple's matrimonial home, which was in his wife's name, hoping for reconciliation. Mrs Lawrence instigated divorce proceedings in June last year and was by then seeing another man.

In the months before her death, the 47-year-old, who had two children from a previous relationship and a son with Mr Lawrence, told friends she feared her "cold and calm" husband would try to kill her.

The night before her death, the pair rowed over the details of the divorce settlement.

On October 6 last year, just two days before the final part of the couple's divorce was due to be granted, Lawrence ploughed his car into a tree on Gartree Road in Oadby, Leicestershire at more than 50mph. Mrs Lawrence died of "catastrophic" injuries, while her husband was uninjured after adopting the brace position during the collision.

Mr Justice Leggatt said: "It is clear to me from the evidence that you had two motives for murdering Sally. One was that you could not and would not accept that your marriage was over and were determined that Sally would never leave you. Your other motive was financial gain. You refused to accept that Sally should have the money from the house, although you had been advised that it was her due."

Detective Superintendent Neil Castle, from Leicestershire Police, said: "In cases like these there is always more than one victim. Sally leaves behind a grieving family including her two daughters, Jess and Rosie, and her son, William. The whole family have shown immense strength throughout the investigation and trial and I hope that today's verdict provides them with some comfort."

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