Australian denies burying expat Scot’s body under his patio

AN 82-YEAR-OLD retired teacher has gone on trial in Australia accused of murdering a Scottish woman nearly 20 years ago and burying her body under his patio.

Cariad Anderson-Slater, 42, disappeared from the home she shared with her English husband David Slater in Perth, Australia, on 12 July 1992.

Perth Supreme Court heard that Mrs Anderson-Slater, who was originally from Elgin, Morayshire, was never seen again.

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Her skeletal remains were found last February by workmen renovating the back garden of war veteran Ronald Pennington’s former home.

David Slater told the court the couple had met in the north-east of Scotland two years before moving to Australia, where they married.

They had moved to a Perth suburb, so Mr Slater could pursue his career in marketing chemicals.

“She was a beautiful person, very intelligent, vivacious,” Mr Slater said.

The court heard that Pennington had been a volunteer at an art gallery and he met Mrs Anderson-Slater and Mr Slater, who was her second husband, in 1992.

State prosecutor Sean O’Sullivan said Mr Slater had books that needed restoring and Pennington offered to help and invited them to dinner.

There Mrs Anderson-Slater, who had problems with alcohol, noticed a handbook for recovering alcoholics on Pennington’s bookshelves, and she began to call him regularly about her own difficulties.

Mr O’Sullivan said: “She came to regard him as a sympathetic ear for the problems she seemed to have within her marriage. A relationship seemed to develop between Cariad and Ron Pennington.”

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On the night she disappeared, the couple had been at Pennington’s home, but he was “drunk and angry”, the court heard. Mrs Anderson-Slater also became drunk, and she and Mr Slater ended up arguing between themselves.

When they returned home Mr Slater poured all the alcohol in their house down the drain.

His wife was “restless” and so he got up and went for a drive to allow her time to calm down, while she went to the house of a neighbour, Colin McKenzie.

There, Mr O’Sullivan said Mrs Anderson-Slater behaved “quite bizarrely”, exposing herself to Mr McKenzie, before calling Pennington, saying that she wanted “to talk”.

Mr O’Sullivan said she got a taxi to Pennington’s house, adding: “Once she got in the vicinity of the door he [the taxi driver] drove away and that’s the last time anyone saw Cariad alive.”

After several days, Mr Slater realised this was not the same as her usual disappearances and he contacted police.

Mr Slater, who denied defence suggestions that he had killed his wife, said that after her disappearance he had “feelings of frustration, loneliness and grief in case something had happened to her … but also anger”.

He said: “I made several rash decisions at the time. I cut up our wedding photographs. I was feeling dejected; I felt very abandoned and that the marriage was a sham.”

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He said he also changed his will so that his two sons from a previous marriage would inherit all his assets because he was “feeling very depressed” and in case “anything happened to me”.

Mr Slater rejected suggestions his wife was sleeping with Pennington, although he agreed she could be “flirtatious”.

Mr Slater re-married in 2004.

After Mrs Anderson-Slater disappeared, Pennington sold his house and moved to Tasmania.

In February last year, excavators at Pennington’s old address uncovered a partial human skull and police were able to uncover a partial skeleton that matched her dental records and her DNA.

Pennington denies murder and concealing Mrs Anderson-Slater’s body by burying it in his back garden.

The trial continues.

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