Man starts life sentence for killing wife in deliberate crash

LONDON Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:18pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - A British former commercial airline pilot began a life sentence on Thursday for killing his wife by disabling the passenger airbag and unclipping her seatbelt before purposefully crashing their car into a tree.

Sentencing Iain Lawrence to a minimum of 24 years in jail, judge George Leggatt told Leicester Crown Court that the murder of the mother-of-three was both "brutal and carefully planned."

Sally Lawrence died at the scene of the crash in the English Midlands last October. Her husband, 53, had later tried to cover it up as a tragic accident.

The judge said on Wednesday that Lawrence, who had left the driver's airbag unaffected, assumed the protective brace position ahead of the crash, meaning he survived with only bruises while his 47-year-old wife died of "catastrophic injuries".

The murder came two days ahead of the couple's decree nisi for divorce, which the judge said was the main motivation for the crime, along with financial gain.

In an attempt to mislead the court, Lawrence had claimed during the trial that a spasm in his legs had caused the crash. But the judge said the crime was carefully plotted.

"The way in which you killed Sally involved a plan that you must have plotted out over days, if not weeks, in all its malevolent detail, and which you then executed with ruthless efficiency," he added.

"You made your car into a machine as lethal as any weapon, and drove it to the scene with the intention of using it to kill."

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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