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'Cruel, callous and evil' - full story on airbag crash murder

Iain Lawrence has been described as 'cruel', 'callous' and 'evil' Photo: ITV News Central

A former commercial airline pilot was jailed for life or murdering his wife by deliberately crashing his car into a tree in Leicestershire after her airbag had been disabled.

Iain Lawrence, 53, was found guilty of murdering his wife Sally by a jury after a three-week trial at Leicester Crown Court.

High Court judge Mr Justice Leggatt told Lawrence he would serve a minimum term of 24 years.

Prosecutors said Lawrence adopted the brace position in the crash as Mrs Lawrence, who was not wearing a seat-belt, died almost instantly.

Friends and family of Mrs Lawrence cheered and shouted "Yes" as the verdict was read out.

Lawrence had denied deliberately driving his car into a tree to murder his 47-year-old wife and claimed it was an accident but the jury of six men and six women took just over eight hours to convict him of murder by a majority verdict of 11-1.

The court heard that Lawrence disabled the passenger airbag of his red Peugeot before the crash in Gartree Road in Oadby on October 6 last year and, in the moments before the car struck the tree, unclipped his wife's seatbelt.

Sentencing Lawrence, Mr Justice Leggatt said Lawrence disabled the passenger airbag "in preparation" for what he planned to do.

During the trial, jurors heard that Lawrence was struggling to cope with the break-up of his 12-year marriage.

The couple, of Ring Road, Oadby, were going through an acrimonious divorce and had "locked horns" over the settlement the night before the crash.

They were still living together at their matrimonial home at the time of the crash, although they were leading separate lives.

The court heard that Lawrence had refused to leave the house as he had wanted the couple, who have a son together, to reconcile.

Mrs Lawrence, who was seeing another man and had instigated divorce proceedings months earlier, had told friends she feared her "calm and cold" husband would try to kill her.

Lawrence claimed he knew nothing of his wife's affair until after her death.

Jurors heard that he feigned unconsciousness behind the wheel following the crash.

Calling it a "vile crime", Mr Justice Leggatt, who sentenced Lawrence, said the defendant must have plotted the murder "over days if not weeks in all its malevolent detail" and then executed it with "ruthless efficiency".

He told Lawrence: "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 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: "This offence was premeditated and planned and was driven by jealousy and financial gain; these facts have influenced his substantial sentence.

"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."

Following the sentencing, Mrs Lawrence's sister, Catherine Kudhail, 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."

She added: "Sally's murder was an act of pure evil. She was an inspirational, caring, kind young woman with a huge heart. She was so full of life.

"Losing her has been unbearable; not a day goes by without her being in our thoughts. She has been taken from us at the most happiest point in her life and has been denied what was undoubtedly to be a very happy future."

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