United Kingdom

Property developer, 47, accused of drowning his wife on holiday 'told friend she died in her sleep'

Paula Leeson, 47, (pictured) drowned in a 4ft-deep swimming pool while on holiday in Denmark

A property developer accused of drowning his 'besotted' wife to claim £3.5million life insurance told a friend she had 'died in her sleep', a court has heard.

Donald McPherson also invited the friend, Joseph Ennis-Cole, to pretend he was also a widower to join him in a group called Widowed and Young - which he described as 'like Tinder for widows' and where he had met another woman four months after the death of his wife.

Mr Ennis-Cole declined the offer, Manchester Crown Court heard.

McPherson, 47, is accused of a 'sinister, pre-planned killing' of his wife Paula Leeson, 47, who drowned in a 4ft-deep swimming pool at a cottage they rented while on holiday in a remote part of western Denmark.

After a whirlwind romance, mother-of-one Ms Leeson, whose family from County Wicklow, Ireland, own a successful construction business in Sale, Greater Manchester, wed the defendant at a no expense spared ceremony at a Cheshire castle in 2014.

He stood to gain a 'vast fortune' in insurance pay-outs after secretly taking out seven life insurance policies on his wife and forging her will, it is alleged.

McPherson, born Alexander James Lang in Takapuna, New Zealand, denies murder on June 6, 2017.

He told police that while on holiday, the couple had been in bed and when he got up he found her face down in the pool and dragged her out.

Mr Ennis-Cole, who met McPherson at a flying school while training him to become a pilot, told the jury: 'Don said she had died in her sleep.

'It changed to she had an issue with her teeth and was allergic to medication.

 Property developer Donald McPherson is accused of drowning his 'besotted' wife to claim £3.5million life insurance (Manchester Crown Court pictured) 

'Then later, closer to the inquest, it became clear she actually drowned. Don did not actually tell me that.'

The witness said McPherson claimed later he did not mention the drowning so as not to 'spook' him.

The court heard McPherson often carried a bundle of notes wrapped in an elastic band - spending around £17,000 on flight lessons and tests before he got his licence to be a private pilot.

But the lessons were kept from his wife who he told another witness was 'besotted' with him.

Mr Ennis-Cole added: 'The flying was a secret, a private hobby.

'It was also a bit of a laugh at the flying school. He would get a call and play his drill and say, 'I'm just in the loft Paula, I will ring you back.'

He also told the jury that McPherson would on occasion use another name for himself, Rob Jones, both online and in person.

Lynn Dale, one of Ms Leeson's best friends, told the court about signing two 'Trust' documents, which would divert around £800,000 life insurance from Ms Leeson's son to McPherson in the event of her death.

Ms Dale said: 'I do not recognise the document at all. I can categorically state this is not my signature and not my handwriting, I have no knowledge of ever having been asked to complete this.'

The death was initially treated as a tragic accident by the Danish authorities but McPherson was later arrested in the UK as police looked into his financial background.

The trial continues.

Football news:

UEFA will soon announce whether the Champions League and Europa League will be completed this season. In social networks there were rumors about the suspension of tournaments
In football revolution-live online 🚨 Super League starts in August, wait for the matches in the middle of the week
FIFA: We can only express our disapproval of the creation of a closed European league
Agnelli left the post of head of the Association of European Clubs. All 12 clubs of the founding clubs of the Super League have also left
The start of the Super League is scheduled for August. 20 clubs, matches in the middle of the week, clubs will be able to play in the national championships
Agnelli resigns as head of the Association of European Clubs. The participants of the Super League scored for an emergency meeting-they supported UEFA
Florentino Perez is the chairman of the European Super League. Andrea Agnelli and Joel Glazer are the deputies