A “VILE monster” who murdered his estranged wife with a shotgun after being ordered to pay a £10,000 divorce bill was today jailed for life.
Michael Reader, 70, must serve a minimum of 31 years in prison after killing Marion Price, 63, in a drive-by shooting just before Christmas last year.
Sentencing Reader at Northampton Crown Court on Monday, Judge Adrienne Lucking QC described Reader's crime as a "cold-blooded execution".
The judge also warned Reader, of Northampton, that given his age and the seriousness of his crime, she could not guarantee he would not die in jail.
Judge Lucking told remorseless Reader his sentence reflected how he killed as "an act of revenge for the financial consequences of the divorce.
She said the killing was “punishment for the fact that Marion had moved on with her life after an abusive marriage".
Reader's best friend Stephen Welch, who was a "willing assistant", was also convicted of murder after a trial earlier this month.
Welch, 61, of Northampton, was given life with a minimum term of 27 years.
Before meeting Reader on the internet in 2012, Ms Price had been a happy person who enjoyed time with friends and family, the court heard.
She was always laughing, singing and dancing around the house."
But "within a month" of marrying that same year, she confided in a work colleague she had "made a mistake", the judge had said.
In a victim personal statement read by prosecutor Mary Loram QC, Ms Price's son Gary Price described his mother as "the most amazing, kind, bubbly, excitable, beautiful human being".
He said she was "always laughing, singing and dancing around the house" and was "so full of joy".
Gary added it was "desperately unfortunate" that while seeking a new life, she had met "vile monster" Reader, who "preyed on her good nature".
"We would find out he was obsessed with money, manipulating, controlling, disgusting, and very sad," he said.
"I really hope that people will read or hear about my mum's story and help at least one other person to spot the signs they are in an abusive relationship.
"Domestic abuse is never just obvious physical abuse, these psychopaths get into your mind and intimidate and frighten you until you do as they say.
"My mother was a strong woman and she stood up for herself – unfortunately this is what led to her murder."
HOW YOU CAN GET HELP:
Women's Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
- Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – email@example.com.
Women’s Aid provides a live chat service available. from 10am to noon.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Judge Lucking told Reader: "You were controlling and obsessed with money. In private, you ridiculed and undermined her.”
In 2017, Reader left Ms Price stranded in London because she had "embarrassed him" by daring to get up and dance at a Jersey Boys musical, alongside the rest of the West End audience, the trial had heard.
The judge added: "You were bitter and resentful, in particular over money spent during the marriage."
When Ms Price told Reader she would no longer pay bills on the matrimonial home, he went to the home of his estranged wife's partially-sighted and deaf 90-year-old mother and launched a frightening attack on his spouse, breaking her fingers.
Ms Price was so badly shaken she left her job, issued divorce proceedings, leaving Reader "incensed", the judge said.
"You were jealous of her social life and became obsessed with her movements," added Judge Lucking.
Reader got a tracker off the internet in November 2018 and with Welch's help, set-up and fitted the device to her car, then made trips under cover of darkness to replace the bug's battery.
On December 15 last year, having plotted an escape route with Welch avoiding CCTV cameras, and sourcing a motorcycle and a shotgun, Reader ambushed his estranged wife in the car park of her home.
The judge added: “You shot Marion Price through the window of her car – out of jealousy and as a cold-blooded act of revenge for the financial costs of the divorce."
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