The estranged wife of Hertfordshire farmer William “Bill” Taylor has been found guilty of his murder.
Angela Taylor and her partner Paul Cannon had a “venomous hatred” for 69-year-old Mr Taylor because he would not grant his wife of 20 years a divorce, St Albans Crown Court was told.
WhatsApp messages found on Mr Cannon’s phone revealed a plot to “kill Bill”, a multimillionaire who owned farms and land near Hitchin in Hertfordshire.
Mr Taylor vanished from his remote farmhouse home in June last year, shortly before his 70th birthday.
His skeletal remains were found by a passing fisherman eight months later in mud on the bank of the River Hiz near Hitchin .
Ms Taylor, of Charlton Road, Charlton, and Mr Cannon, of Pirton Road, Hitchin, were both found guilty of murder and arson on Monday (4 November) following an eight-week trial.
Work colleague cleared
Gwyn Griffiths, 60, a colleague of Mr Cannon’s, of Lucy Avenue, Folkestone, Kent, was cleared of conspiracy to murder and discharged.
Ms Taylor, 53, and Mr Cannon, 54, had been in an intimate relationship since late 2017, the court heard.
Mr Cannon had worked for contractors moving soil on Mr Taylor’s farms. For a period in late 2017 and early 2018 he had lodged with Mr Taylor at Harkness Hall, Hitchin.
The couple fantasised about killing Mr Taylor in lurid WhatsApp conversations read to the court.
Two days before the farmer disappeared, Mr Cannon wrote to Ms Taylor: “Make love to you on his kitchen table… with him tied to a chair so he had to watch. Then send him to hell.”
Ms Taylor replied: “Think that would kill him, last thing he saw was us making love xxxxxx.”
‘Kill Bill’ plot
In another message, on the night Mr Taylor disappeared, Mr Cannon wrote: “Just watching Kill Bill 2 lol.”
The pair sent 28,000 messages to each other over 148 days and believed their WhatsApp messages were safe, secure and could not be read. Mr Cannon had deleted them from his phone, but a police officer managed to recover them.
During the trial, Ms Taylor had told the court that the WhatsApp messages were just “rubbish chat” and “meaningless”.
The defence had argued that Mr Taylor died after getting “stuck in the mud” and may have gone to the area for a picnic.
Possible neck fracture
Consultant forensic pathologist Charlotte Randall carried out an autopsy and found that Mr Taylor was dead before he went into the water. She said there was no evidence that he had been administered drugs.
But Dr Randall said there was a “possible fracture” to the hyoid bone in the neck, which could have been due to compression of the neck.
Ms Taylor and Mr Cannon were also found guilty of arson for the partial torching of Mr Taylor’s Land Rover before he went missing.
Judge Michael Kay QC told the couple he would sentence them on Friday (8 November) and that they should expect life imprisonment.
After the verdict, speaking on behalf of the family, Mr Taylor’s eldest son Richard said: “With the return of the guilty verdict today, the truth we have always known has finally come out.
“We are so grateful to the police and prosecution team for their hard work, dedication and determination in getting justice for my father.
“This senseless act that has destroyed my family is finally coming to an end. It will never be truly over but we can now start to grieve/mourn our loss knowing justice has been done.”