Suzanne Winnister (Metropolitan Police / PA) (PA Archive)
A former BT executive killed his 42-year-old wife when he mistakenly believed she was having an affair with her handyman, the Old Bailey heard.
Leslie Winnister, 69, beat his wife Suzanne to death with a marble cutting board in their home in Bexley, southeast London, last September.
The court heard that at the time of the murder he was gripped by psychotic delusions, including suspicions that his wife had used occult magic, poisoned his food, and tampered with his car.
Their marriage, already under pressure thanks to Winnister’s deteriorating mental health, became “unbearable” during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The court heard that he killed Ms. Winnister just days after visiting a nurse who believed his symptoms were a possible dementia and put his case on hold for a week.
A police medic had also missed signs of danger when Winnister was arrested on suspicion of a violent assault on the craftsman.
Dr. Nigel Blackwood, who conducted a psychiatric examination on Winnister after the murder, said “limitations” on the medical services he interacted with meant that the dangers he posed to his wife were being overlooked.
“They saw a man about to retire, employed for 40 years, white middle class, with no criminal record, and their fears would not have been provoked,” he said.
“Of course, it is very regrettable that he was not examined by a psychiatrist who would have recognized the dangers of the case.”
Winnister pleaded not guilty to the murder, but admitted manslaughter due to reduced responsibility and was held indefinitely in a safe hospital for psychiatric treatment today.
“Not only was this man obviously sick, but everyone knew it,” said Judge Wendy Joseph QC.
“I am pleased that Leslie Winnister has and continues to suffer from a mental illness.”
Ms. Winnister’s best friend, Beverley Johnson, told the court in a statement of effectiveness: “I have a feeling that Les has stolen our future together in order to grow old as companions.
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“She was just lovely, she was my best friend and I loved her very much.”
The court heard that Winnister’s unfounded suspicions about his wife’s loyalty began in late 2019 when she texted her handyman Alf Mainwaring: “Are you coming today? x ”, but incorrectly sent it to her husband.
She told Winnister the kiss was a “casual gesture” she often sent to people, but that it was “the likely genesis of the defendant who believes his wife and Alf are having an affair,” said District Attorney Bill Emlyn Jones QC.
“In the spring and summer of 2020, especially when the nation was locked down following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the relationship between the Winnisters became unbearable.
“His paranoia led him to regularly accuse her of infidelity and try to kill him by poisoning his food.”
The court heard Winnister hit Mr Mainwaring on the head with a crowbar in August 2020 when he came to fix their freezer but was not prosecuted.
The incident resulted in Winnister moving from the family home to a nearby Holiday Inn for five weeks when his wife told friends she was worried for their safety.
They met occasionally for dinner, but Winnister continued to suspect that she was “disrupting” his car and credit cards and “attempting to poison him with carbon monoxide in his hotel room,” the prosecutor said.
An attempt was made to refer Winnister for a psychiatric evaluation and he went to the A&E while saying he was uncomfortable but the danger he posed was again overlooked.
“It appears that Ms. Winnister was very upset with the condition of her husband and was concerned that he was not eating properly at the hotel or that he was not self-sufficient,” said Mr Emlyn Jones.
“He began to look unkempt and lost weight. She finally decided to let him back in, although her friends knew that it made her feel very uncomfortable. She had put a lock on her bedroom door. “
The murder occurred on September 8th last year, just two days after he moved back into his family home.
A friend found Mrs. Winnister’s body on the kitchen floor while the killer was found in a local pub with a pint of lager and a packet of chips.
He admitted that he had blood on his clothes and commented, “I’ve just had a terrible day.”
Winnister is being held in a safe hospital for treatment, which is expected to take several years.
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