Published: 13:00, 11 April 2014 |
Updated: 14:22, 11 April 2014
But he changed his plea to guilty at Maidstone Crown Court before the end of his trial this afternoon.
Birch, who ran the Why Not? micropub in Westgate with Anne-Marie, sobbed during his early testimony as he continued to declare his love for his wife.
The court heard Birch stalked his wife for months at the former marital home in Nethercourt Gardens, Ramsgate - flouting court orders banning him from any contact - before launching the fatal attack on November 7 last year.
Pathologist Dr Simon Poole said the rope had been looped at least four times around the victim's neck and tied with a knot. She had multiple fractures to her face and head.
"That union produced one child, Molly who is now 15 years of age.
"I have heard and accept that the deceased was a devoted mother and that mother and daughter were protective of each other.
"I have listened to a number of calls Anne-Marie made to the emergency services and she was a woman living in fear of you..." - Judge Philip Statman
"Anne-Marie stood by you for better or for worse and had no idea of the fraud you carried out (a previous conviction), and she waited for you to serve your prison sentence.
"You then went back to prison (for not paying a confiscation order) and she remortgaged the marital home to ensure the debt was paid and it was a struggle to get over that for both of you.
"In July she decided she wanted to end the marriage and you eventually left the marital home.
"You started to follow her when she and Molly would leave for school and it became deeply oppressive.
"So much so she got a non-molestation order and at the very start of the order you made it clear you would not comply with it.
"You were given a conditional discharge for breaching the order. I have listened to a number of calls Anne-Marie made to the emergency services and she was a woman living in fear of you."
Judge Statman added: "I am sure your actions were planned and premeditated and you took three pieces of rope in your van and and cut them to kill your wife.
"You knew she would be walking the dogs and you walked five miles along the beach to a secluded area and you approached her from behind and wound the rope around her neck twice.
"And in the most chilling manner, you then hit her on the head at least five times and you took her life and deprived Molly of her mother.
"You then looked for her mobile phone, took the dogs back and left your wife's body to be found by a stranger.
"You then went to the pub and had a couple of beers before you called the police and told them what you had done.
"Your conduct did cause her mental suffering prior to her death. You could use the term stalking, which you did by your own admission, but there was no violence during the marriage and I accept that.
"You did not have the strength to plead guilty at the first opportunity and sentence you to life imprisonment and you will serve a minimum of 25 years and will be on licence for the rest of your life."
As Birch was taken down to the cells he said: "Thank you your Honor for justice."
Birch claimed he had been offered decorating work and on the morning of the day he killed his wife he went to her home to collect his ladders and other equipment.
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