Ex-marine found guilty of murdering wife after she found out he was sleeping with son's girlfriend
The jury was told how the affair became sexual in April 2017 as the pair secretly met up at the Searle's home or in a car park
An ex-Royal Marine commando faces life behind bars after being found guilty of murdering his wife after she found out he was sleeping with their daughter-in-law.
Stephen Searle, 64, strangled 62-year-old Anne using a “choke hold” during a row over his affair with their son's 39-year-old girlfriend. The former UKIP councillor then called police and told officers “I've been a very naughty boy” as they arrested him at the couple's £400,000 home in Stowmarket, Suffolk.
Searle denied murder, claiming to a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that he acted in self-defence after his wife of 45 years tried to stab him in the stomach with a steak knife. But following the seven-day trial, he was today (tue) found guilty of murder after fatally attacking Mrs Searle on December 30 last year.
Speaking after the guilty verdict, a statement was released from the couple's son Stevie, who said: "As you are all well aware, today there has been justice for my mum, Anne Searle. The thing is, this year not only have I lost my mum but my dad as well."
"So now all I want to focus on is my family and friends who can help me through this year and more to come. The part that hurts me the most is I lost my mum but the person who took my mum away was also my best friend, who was my dad. So now it’s time to focus on my own family and kids and do the best I can for them.”
Opening the case, prosecutor Andrew Jackson previously told the jury: “The alleged murder had its roots firmly in the discovery by Mrs Searle that the defendant had been having an affair with their daughter-in-law. The discovery of his infidelity with their daughter-in-law had taken place a few months before. It has put considerable strain on their marriage."
He added: “It is the prosecution's case that on that Saturday night there has been yet another row between the two of them and in anger the defendant strangled his wife to death.”
The jury were told colleagues of Mrs Searle had noticed dark bruising on her arms, caused by her husband, in the months leading up to her death.
She told them he was having an affair but she didn't know who it was with and when she kicked him out of their martial home, he tried to force his way back in. The couple, who have three sons together, got back together as Mrs Searle “wanted to make her marriage work and sort it out” and felt “too old to start again”.
But she later found text messages on Searle's phone between him and their daughter-in-law Anastasia Pomiateeva, who he met at the Solar Bowl bowling alley in Ipswich, Suffolk, where they both worked.
The court heard Miss Pomiateeva was in a relationship with the Searle's son Gary and while the pair were not married, “for all intents and purposes she was their daughter-in-law”.
Mr Jackson said: “In March 2017, the defendant began to make it plain to Anastasia Pomiateeva that he had a sexual interest in her.
“At one time he invited her to his council office and over coffee there he told Miss Pomiateeva he had not have sex for a long time. He asked her if she was happy with his son Gary, and then asked her if she would like to make him happy."
“The two of them began a sexual relationship which was kept hidden from the rest of the family.”
The jury were told how the affair became sexual in April 2017 as the pair secretly met up at the Searle's home or in a car park. Searle also sent explicit pictures of himself to Miss Pomiateeva and referred to her by the nickname “SBG” which the court heard stood for “Steve's beautiful girl”.
Following the discovery of the affair, Mrs Searle posted screen grabs of the couple's messages on Facebook.
She also updated her status on Christmas Day to say: “I hope I will still be here in 2018. We will see.”
But days later, she suffering a cardiac arrest as a result of being suffocated by Searle, who applied pressure to her neck for a number of minutes before she died.
He then made a call to Suffolk Police to say he had killed his wife and when asked how she died, he said: “Suffocation really I guess, bit of a bizarre situation but never mind. I'm not violent. I was going to sleep on it but now I just want to get it done.”
However he later claimed in a police statement he as acting in self-defence, saying “I never meant to hurt her.”
Taking the stand during the trial, Searle said: “I looked down and saw a blade going backwards and forwards. I just grabbed it. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I thought I've got to stop this.”
The court heard the pair got into a struggle in which Searle claimed he was trying to grab the knife, leaving him with stab wounds to his right hand. He told the jury: “It was just a blur. Eventally she stopped struggling and I went, 'Thank 'f' for that'.”
Searle was elected as a UKIP councillor for Suffolk County Council in 2013 but lost his seat in May last year. He also sold poppies for the British Legion after joining the Royal Marines in 1970, aged 17. Searle married Anne in December 1972 and the couple had three sons, Gary, Christopher and Stevie.
Speaking after the guilty verdict, senior investigating officer Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger of Suffolk Police, said: "Anne Searle’s death was a tragic crime and our sympathies remain with her family and friends.
"Whilst crimes of this severity remain a rare occurrence in Suffolk the community can take reassurance that the man responsible has been brought to justice for his actions. The investigation has been professionally handled by the Constabulary staff involved, leading to the right outcome at trial."
"This started from the initial call handling, continued during the diligent investigation and we have worked hard to support the family through the challenging time that followed Anne’s murder.
Author: Tommy Lumby
© South West News Service