Great Britain

Heiress murder: Husband ‘killed wealthy wife for vast fortune in holiday home drowning plot’

A property developer murdered his wealthy heiress wife and disguised it as a holiday drowning accident so he could claim her "vast fortune", a court has heard.

Donald McPherson, 47, killed Paula Leeson, also 47, after secretly taking out seven life insurance policies worth £3.5m in her name, a jury heard.

He drowned her in the swimming pool of a holiday home where the couple – from Sale in Greater Manchester – had been staying during a minibreak to the remote Danish seaside village of Nørre Nebel, it was alleged.

A day after she died, he was discovered to have transferred large sums of money from their joint account to his personal one. Within eight days he had registered for a group called Widowed and Young – which he described as "like Tinder for widows".

McPherson, a property developer, denied murder at Manchester Crown Court on Tuesday in a trial expected to last six weeks.

Opening the case, prosecutor David McLachlan explained the couple had married in a "grand, no expense-spared” wedding at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, in June 2014.

But he suggested that McPherson, who was originally from New Zealand, was already hiding a number of secrets from his partner.

Soon after becoming a couple he had taken insurance policies on his wife, who was in line to inherit her family’s skip hire business, which was worth millions. He is also suspected of forging a will; and had learnt to fly without ever telling her.

Leeson herself – who had a son from a previous relationship – was said to have only gone on the Danish holiday, in June 2017, to please her husband. The mother-of-one died three days into the trip.

Mr McPherson came under suspicion after a postmortem discovered bleeding around Leeson’s throat and other injuries.

Mr McLachlan said: "It was a sinister pre-planned killing and the person responsible for her drowning was none other than her husband Donald McPherson.

"The motive for the drowning was the oldest and simplest one in the book. It was financial. He stood to gain a vast fortune by her death.”

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