Published: 00:00, 08 February 2007
A "CONTROLLING" husband killed his disabled wife after he received a solicitor’s letter asking him to leave the sheltered housing that had been provided for her, a court heard.
Michael Herd strangled her with a cord before going to the police and declaring: “I have just killed my wife.”
Officers went to their home in Harold Street, Dover, and found Ann Herd, 64, lying in the hallway with the cord still around her neck.
Maidstone Crown Court heard that Herd, 50, claims his wife of 17 years had provoked him. He admits manslaughter, but denies murder.
When interviewed, Herd spoke of his wife’s gambling habit and said she had taken money from their bank accounts to fund it.
But Martin Griffith, prosecuting, said Herd had transferred more than £90,000 into an account he held and planned to pay £89,000 cash to buy his own home.
The couple had for a time lived in Spain and then returned to Dover. Mrs Herd had a back problem and was receiving a pension. Her husband was paid a carer’s allowance.
Herd told police that they spoke about getting divorced and discussed her having all the money if he had the flat they lived in.
But he thought someone had told her that she should have the flat and most of the money.
On June 3 last year, he went home and found the solicitor’s letter and said he was at breaking point because of what he read. The letter from Mrs Herd’s solicitor asked him to leave the flat “forthwith”.
Herd claimed that his wife looked at him and “laughed and grinned.” He picked up a knife and swung it at her. It caught on something and broke.
“He threw her into the front of the building,” said Mr Griffith. “He then got the cord, which he described as a dog lead, and swung her round.
“He threw her on to the floor on to her face. She screamed. He put the rope around her neck and his knee in her lower back.”
He then pulled the cord tightly around her neck for about 15 minutes.
“He then released his grip and stopped,” said the prosecutor. “He said he couldn’t believe what he had done.
“Asked if he intended to kill her, he said he didn’t. He says: 'Yes, I killed her, but I was provoked’.”
Mr Griffith said members of Mrs Herd’s family and friends would tell how her husband was controlling and manipulative.
A friend of the couple said Herd told him that he felt like throttling his wife as she was regularly taking £300 out of their bank accounts to put in fruit machines.
But Mr Griffith said it was mainly Herd who was withdrawing money. Almost £90,000 had been transferred into one account from Spain.
By the time of Mrs Herd’s death, there was just under £91,000 in accounts.
“All but £226 had gone from joint accounts into accounts solely operated by the defendant,” said the prosecutor.
Herd said he got to the position where bank accounts were frozen. “Trust had gone out of the window,” he said. “The relationship was very tense.
“We had discussed divorce for years. It just came to a boil and that was it. I said to her: 'You either have the flat and I have the money, or you have the money and I have the flat.’
“This was a couple of weeks before the incident. She agreed to take all the money. That was fine by me. A few days later her attitude changed.
“She wanted the flat and a large lump of the money. I said: 'No way. You can either have one or the other’.”
Herd said he went to a solicitor to find out whether his wife would be entitled to half if he bought a flat.
“She didn’t tell me she had gone to a solicitor,” he continued. “She was not talking. I asked her 50 times.”
On June 3 last year he had returned from walking their dog Rocky when he received a solicitor’s letter, asking him to leave the flat.
“I felt sick,” he said. “I noticed a knife on the floor by her bed and stuck it in my back pocket. Ann came out of the bedroom and went into the kitchen to make coffee. She started smirking.
“She was going to clear me out – take the flat, take the money, take everything.
“I got hold of her and slung her against the front door. I just lost it. I took out the knife from my back pocket and swiped it at her. The blade bent 90 degrees. I just slung it on the floor.
“I grabbed hold of Ann and slung her into the hallway. I just grabbed the lead and put it round her neck. Nothing was going through my mind. I didn’t form the intention to kill her or seriously injure her. I just pulled the rope tight.”
Herd spoke calmly as he demonstrated how he strangled his wife.
Herd said he got up after about 10 minutes and then put some clothes into a bag, ready to hand himself in.
“I took Rocky and put him in,” he said. “I picked my coat up, picked the bag up, picked the letter up and walked straight to Dover Police Station.”
The trial continues.