BA pilot is jailed for 26 years over killing of millionairess wife

A BRITISH Airways captain who believed he was "stitched up" by a prenuptial agreement was jailed for 26 years yesterday for killing his estranged wife and burying her body in a pre- prepared grave.

Robert Brown, originally from Edinburgh, bludgeoned millionairess Joanna to death with a claw hammer in their family home as their two young children cowered in the playroom.

He then bundled her body into the boot of his car and later dumped it in a makeshift coffin in Windsor Great Park.

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The brutal killing took place on 31 October last year - just days after a landmark ruling at the Supreme Court in which judges decided a "marriage contract" was binding.

Yesterday, a jury at Reading Crown Court acquitted Brown of murder, but convicted him of obstructing a coroner from holding an inquest.

Brown, of Winkfield, Berkshire, previously admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Sentencing Brown, judge Mr Justice Cooke told him: "You intended to kill, you intended to conceal the body and to hide the evidence of the killing."

Brown, 47, looked skywards as sentence was passed, while his wife's relatives broke down in tears in the public gallery.

The judge said: "You never called an ambulance or took her to hospital. In my judgment you never had any intention to."

During the eight-day trial, jurors heard he had been consumed by anger and resentment during his marriage. When his wife, known as Jo, filed for a divorce, it began three years of protracted legal wrangling.

Problems came to a head last year when Brown, by then living with his French girlfriend Stephanie Bellemre, 41, drove to his wife's home to drop off their children following the half-term break.

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He arrived at Tun Cottage armed with a claw hammer, jurors were told. There, with the youngsters out of sight in the playroom, he hit Mrs Brown at least 14 times around the head.

He put the children in his Volvo 4x4, wrapped Mrs Brown's body in plastic sheeting, placed a bin-liner over her head to "avoid leaving bloodstains" and dumped her in the car.

Leaving the children at his home, Brown drove to Windsor Great Park, where he had already buried a garden crate that would serve as his wife's coffin.

During his own evidence Brown told the court he could not explain why he attacked her.

He said: "I just lost it. I just burst, and I can't remember."

A summary of victim impact statements by Mrs Brown's mother, Diana Parkes, and her brother, James, was heard in court.Mrs Parkes described the verdict as a "gross miscarriage of justice".

She added: "Very sadly it was felt that the horrendous act of killing Jo with at least 14 blows to her head was sufficient evidence to convict Robert Brown without the need to dwell on the obsessive and vindictive way he pursued the divorce."