Estranged wife and lover murdered Gosmore farmer over 'venomous hatred', court hears
PUBLISHED: 15:01 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:44 04 September 2019
A wealthy farmer from Gosmore was murdered by his estranged wife and her lover who had a "venomous hatred" for him, a jury heard during the opening of the trial today.
William Taylor was loathed by his younger wife Angela and her new partner Paul Cannon who would drive cars at him, shout abuse and set alight his Land Rover, the court was told.
A jury at St Albans Crown Court heard that Mr Taylor, who was known as Bill, disappeared from his home Harkness Hall in the village of Gosmore near Hitchin shortly before his 70th birthday.
Opening the case, prosecutor John Price QC said the 69-year-old was reported missing to the police by his lodger Richard Lush on the evening of June 4 last year.
He had last been seen by a grandson on the Sunday evening and seemed "fit and well".
Mr Price said: "He was a man of regular routine. His life had a very well established rhythm. That was a reason why his sudden disappearance quickly caused concern."
The prosecutor said the killing was carried out by Paul Cannon and a work associate, Gwyn Griffiths.
Angela Taylor, of Charlton Road, Charlton, her partner Paul Cannon, aged 54, of Pirton Road, Hitchin, and his work colleague Gwyn Griffiths, 60, of Lucy Avenue, Folkestone, all deny murder and an alternative lesser charge of conspiracy to murder.
Ms Taylor and Mr Cannon also deny arson of the farmer's Landrover between May 25 and May 28 last year.
Mr Price said Ms Taylor had long been been separated from her husband by the time of his disappearance, and was living with their three adult children on another farm near to Harkness Hall, called Mill Farm.
He went on: "Since late 2017 she had been in a relationship with Paul Cannon - an intimate relationship.
"Mr Cannon was a man who had worked for contractors moving soil on Mr Taylor's farms. And, for a period in late 2017 going into 2018, Mr Cannon had lodged with Mr Taylor at Harkness Hall."
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The prosecutor told the jury that for at least four months before it finally happened the pair plotted to kill Mr Taylor.
He said: "It will become apparent that he and she shared and encouraged in each other a venomous hatred for William Taylor - they loathed him.
"It is not alleged that Ms Taylor was directly involved in the act of killing her estranged husband. She was very probably at home in Mill Farm and may even have been asleep. It is alleged she participated in murder by encouraging her lover to do it.
"One of the things that we say she encouraged Mr Cannon to do was to find a man who would be prepared to kill her husband for money. We say she did this in February 2018. Mr Cannon did as she asked of him.
"This is how Gwyn Griffiths first became involved - he was a man whom Mr Cannon had come to know because they worked at the same place."
Mr Price said when the police launched a missing person inquiry others clung to the hope that Bill Taylor might still be found safe and well, but his wife and her lover spoke of him in the past tense.
Setting out the background to the case, Mr Price said in April 2014, four years before the disappearance of Mr Taylor, Ms Taylor filed for a divorce and instructed a solicitor to seek a financial settlement.
In the deed of separation Bill Taylor and his son Richard - conceived by Mr Taylor's first wife - took out a £1 million loan so Ms Taylor could acquire, debt-free, Mill Farm and Dog Kennell Farm near Hitchin.
Mr Price said the former couple both became very wealthy.
But it was alleged Ms Taylor was still accessing Harkness Hall accounts and referred to Richard Taylor as being "greedy". She is alleged to have said: "I can get rid of the Taylors anytime - whenever I want. I will get someone in Yorkshire to sort it out."
Mr Cannon, the jury heard, had split from his wife in October 2017 and lodged rent free with Mr Taylor until January 2018.
But Mr Taylor came to suspect Mr Cannon was having a relationship with his estranged wife in early 2018 and was "angered and distressed". She began divorce proceedings again in March 2018, but Mr Taylor refused and wrote her a letter professing his love for her.
The prosecution alleged Mr Taylor told a friend that his wife's lover would deliberately knock or walk into him if he saw him in Hitchin: "He said he was frightened of him. He said Angela Taylor and Paul Cannon would drive their car at him and shout abuse at him."
The trial, which could last up to six weeks, continues.