Farmer who ran over wife in tractor to lavish insurance cash on 'betrayed' mistress is jailed

Enlarge   Killer: Robert Wilson has been jailed for life for murdering his wife with a tractor

Killer: Robert Wilson has been jailed for life for murdering his wife with a tractor

A farmer who killed his wife for a £400,000 insurance payout was jailed for life yesterday.

A jury found Robert Wilson guilty of driving a tractor at his wife Jane and crushing her under its wheels.

The court was told the 41-year-old had run up debts of £300,000 through gambling, high living and the cost of keeping a mistress, Kathy McNeill.

He bought her a £22,000 Mercedes, took her on a £15,000 trip to the Maldives and promised to marry her.

After seeing Wilson jailed for life yesterday, Mrs McNeill, 48, wept as she described his impact on her life.

For 18 months he told her his wife had died of cancer when she was in fact alive and well.

Her voice breaking with emotion, Mrs McNeill said: ‘He betrayed me, ruined my life and although I feel relieved you have to remember I loved him.

‘I was naive. I fell for him and believed what he was telling me. I had no reason to think otherwise.

‘That’s the type of person I was. I was very trusting and when I began the relationship with Bob I committed myself to him.’

Wilson killed his 53-year-old wife last December. Mrs McNeill had just moved back from Spain to be with him and the two sides of his double life were about to collide.

At first, police accepted his claim that his wife’s death had been a tragic accident.

Scene of the crime: The family farm in Kirkandrews-upon-Eden, Cumbria, where Wilson murdered his wife

Scene of the crime: The family farm in Kirkandrews upon Eden, Cumbria, where Wilson murdered his wife

Enlarge   The tractor inside the barn at the farm where Jane Wilson died

The tractor inside the barn at the farm where Jane Wilson died

Mr Wilson soon invited Mrs McNeill to live with him even though he was sleeping with a farmhand, Michelle Dodd, also a divorced mother of two.

His lies were exposed when his wife’s adult children found romantic cards Mrs McNeill had sent him. Police reopened the case and arrested him for murder.

Wilson, who had affairs with a number of women during his seven-year marriage, met Mrs McNeill in a Spanish bar while on a stag trip in October 2006.

Two months later he doubled the life insurance cover on himself and his wife.

He visited Mrs McNeill – a barmaid who was awaiting a £1million divorce settlement – six  times in Malaga during 2007.

They were soon planning to sell the farm in Kirkandrews-on-Eden, Cumbria, and move to France.

Wilson’s wife, a rural postmistress, had similar plans for a move abroad.

But on December 1, he dialled 999 and claimed that a cow she was feeding had knocked her into the path of his tractor.

Paramedics arrived to find him in hysterics, screaming: ‘I’ve killed her. I’ve killed her.’

When police arrested him this April, he was in bed with his second lover, Miss Dodd, who regularly visits him in prison.

He told Carlisle Crown Court his wife knew of his womanising and had encouraged him to go to the Maldives with Mrs McNeill.

Jane Wilson (l) was killed in December 2007; Robert Wilson's mistress Kathy McNeil (r) attended a previous hearing

But Wilson was an accomplished liar. Last year he told friends he had lung cancer and that the BBC wanted to make a documentary on his amazing recovery and lack of hair loss following chemotherapy.

He gambled heavily in a desperate attempt to continue mixing with wealthy local businessmen.

He liked fined wines, foreign travel, club-class air trips and owned a racehorse which cost £25,000 to train and keep.

The horse was useless – but according to Wilson, who had a job as a railway worker, ‘money was no object’.

The jury of six men and six women took seven hours to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty. Mr Justice Clarke ruled that Wilson should serve at least 22 years in prison. He said the murder was brutal and calculating.

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