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Woman pleaded: I want hitman to kill me

CHRISTINE RYDER: treated for mental health problems. Picture: MIKE GUNNILL
CHRISTINE RYDER: treated for mental health problems. Picture: MIKE GUNNILL
KEVIN REEVES: jailed for 15 months. Picture: MIKE GUNNILL
KEVIN REEVES: jailed for 15 months. Picture: MIKE GUNNILL

A 53-year-old woman was so depressed and desperate to end her life that she agreed to pay a friend to arrange for a hitman to kill her, a court heard.

Christine Ryder ended up handing over a total of £20,000 to Kevin Reeves after he agreed to murder her himself.

But Reeves, 40, of Saltings Road, Snodland, near Rochester, failed to keep his side of the bargain and she shopped him to the police.

Now he has been jailed for 15 months after being convicted of deception.

A judge told the married father: "While it is clear you had no intention of arranging for someone to kill Mrs Ryder and didn’t propose to yourself, you deceived her into believing it would happen."

Fiona Moore-Graham, prosecuting, had told the jury: "No doubt many of you watch television dramas like Rumpole and John Deed. It is often presented in a way that is helpful or believable, but there are times when lawyers say: ‘We don’t do that sort of thing.’

"Often those cases are hyped up because they are for your entertainment. This case, you may think, is stranger than fiction. You have the background that says this man had £5,000, £10,000 and another £5,000 from Christine Ryder.

"You may say: So what? But this is a bizarre case for this reason: During the friendship, she asked Mr Reeves if he knew anyone who could assist her in taking her life."

Reeves and Mrs Ryder met when they were both being treated in Medway Maritime Hospital at Gillingham in 2003.

Mrs Ryder, from Strood, had been admitted after attempting to commit suicide by taking an overdose. Reeves was also being treated for mental health problems.

Miss Moore-Graham said Reeves made a telephone call and then told Mrs Ryder that he could get someone to kill her for £2,500.

After they had both left hospital, Mrs Ryder contacted him and repeated her request. Reeves said a friend would do the job but the price was now £5,000.

Mrs Ryder gave Reeves a cheque for the amount and it was paid into his account. He told her she would be killed in a drive-by shooting on June 11 2003. But shortly before, he telephoned her and cancelled it.

"He later said he had to kill the hitman and the money had gone to his widow," said the prosecutor. "Mrs Ryder was desperate to end her life, so she asked Mr Reeves if he himself would kill her.

"He agreed but said it would cost £10,000. She gave him a cheque but there was no further contact for some time. When he eventually contacted her, he said the money had been taken by his bank because he was a bankrupt.

"He said if she gave him another £10,000 he could kill her. She refused but agreed to pay £5,000."

Reeves told her he would kill her on November 28. The day before she received a letter from him saying the situation had changed but "things are still on, so don’t panic".

But there was no contact for some time because Reeves took his wife, Jean, on an expensive holiday to Tenerife. "You may think, therefore, that there was no intention of killing Mrs Ryder on November 28," said the prosecutor.

Mrs Ryder contacted Mrs Reeves and told her about the money. Mrs Reeves said her husband told her that he had won £5,000 on a scratch card, £10,000 came from an insurance policy and £5,000 from an ISA.

"He simply had the money for his own purposes and had no intention of using it for the purpose she directed – to have her killed or kill her himself," said Miss Moore-Graham.

After the verdict, Steven Hadley, defending, conceded: "This is a wholly unattractive case. It is a mean offence, preying on somebody who is vulnerable."

Judge Veronica Hammerton told unemployed Reeves: "This was a calculated deception, repeated three times. It resulted in a substantial sum being paid to you. None of the money was repaid.

"In all the circumstances, these offences are so serious that a custodial sentence is unavoidable. The great sadness in this case is that so far as your family is concerned great distress has been caused."

The judge ordered that £2,000 Reeves had saved up to repay Mrs Ryder should be handed over as compensation within 28 days.

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