A Parish councillor and practising pagan suffered a “gruesome” death after telling his lover that he had decided to marry another woman, a court was told yesterday.
Margaret James, a 57-year-old grandmother, is accused of murdering her partner, Peter Solheim, whose drugged and mutilated body was found floating off the Cornish coast in June last year.
Shortly before his death, Mr Solheim, 56, from Carnkie, Cornwall, had told Mrs James that he had got engaged to a woman he had been having a sexual relationship with for more than 20 years, Truro Crown court was told.
Mrs James, the prosecution alleged yesterday, decided to exact a terrible revenge. Using Mr Solheim’s mobile phone, she laid a careful trail suggesting that he had gone on a fishing trip with a man called Charlie.
Meanwhile Mr Solheim, who had become a wealthy man through dealing in antique weapons and pornography, was drugged with the powerful sedative Lorazepam.
Some time in the next four hours, the prosecution allege, Mrs James mutilated her boyfriend by striking his limbs with a “sharp” object. She ripped the rings from his fingers, hit him over the head and inflicted further injuries, details of which have yet to be revealed to the jury.
Then, with the help of one or more accomplices whose identities are still unknown, Mr Solheim was allegedly taken out to sea in his small dingy, the IzzWizz, and left to drown. By chance, his body was found by a passing fishing boat a few miles off the Lizard peninsula.
The prosecution alleges that Mrs James had expected it to vanish, leaving his disappearance a maritime mystery and her to spend the £25,000 in cash that she allegedly took from his home. Police found £900 of the money hidden under her mattress along with a note that said: “What goes around, comes around.”
Sarah Munro, QC, for the prosecution, told the jury: “Perhaps it was a reference to her search for revenge. Don’t be fooled by this diminutive woman. In truth she has a heart of stone.
“It was as a very female personal attack and shows she was very much party to this killing.
“He was not a popular man, which almost certainly meant that when James decided he must die she had no trouble finding an accomplice or two.”
Miss Munro said that Mr Solheim suffered “the most gruesome death”. She added: “He was murdered having been sedated by the stupefying drug Lorazepam. He had a head wound and several of his limbs were targeted with sharp weapons. After he had died, or was on the brink of death, his mutilated body was dumped miles out to sea . . . This was a calculated plan, executed with care and precision.
“His final demise could have been by drowning but he was undoubtedly murdered and we say the woman in the dock was responsible.”
The jury was told that Mr Solheim was “highly sexed” and had been seeing Jean Knowles for more than 20 years but had only asked her to marry him a few weeks before his death.
The court was told that Mrs James was fully aware of the relationship, although she later denied any knowledge of it to detectives.
Miss Monro said: “Her plans for the future were threatened and she was at risk of losing access to Peter’s money. She decided he must die.
The court was told that Mrs James and Mr Solheim had twice been out in the IzzWizz in the days before his murder.
Mrs James, who denies murder and conspiracy to murder, is alleged to have laid a false trail to cover up her involvement and convince his fiance’e and other friends that he was still alive. Miss Munro said that text messages supposed to have been sent by Mr Solheim from a boat had been sent by Mrs James from his home some time after his death.
Mrs James and Mr Solheim had met eight years earlier through an interest in “magic, paganism, sunsets and beaches” but demonstrated little affection for each other. She said: “They also shared an interest in sex, pills, potions and cash.”
Mrs James, of Porthoustock, near St Keverne, Cornwall, was seen to smile during parts of yesterday’s evidence.
The trial continues.
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