He killed his South African wife, dumped her body in a wheelie-bin, then went on holiday with a woman friend
AFORMER London chef is facing a life sentence for killing his South African wife with a griddle pan and hiding her body in a freezer for three years.
Peter Wallner thought wife Melanie, whose family live in Pretoria, stood in the way of his womanising.
So he battered her with the cast iron pan as she slept in their home in Surrey in August 2006, the Old Bailey heard.
Her body was later found in a wheelie bin. He placed the body in a freezer in the garden shed and dumped it in the bin when he left the country with new girlfriend Lilia Fenech.
But dustmen refused to take the bin from the front of his house in Hamilton Avenue, Cobham, because it was too heavy. The landlord then saw an ankle when he looked inside.
Wallner, 34, was arrested when he voluntarily returned from Malta last June, following an international media alert.
He was found guilty of murder by a jury at the Old Bailey on Friday.
Wallner had claimed that it was manslaughter and said he “lost the plot” when Melanie, 30, hit him with a rolling pin and confronted him about a text message from another woman.
He said he “acted like a scumbag” in trying to persuade her family and friends that she died of natural causes – presenting them with an urn containing ashes from a barbecue. But the prosecution said he killed Melanie in cold blood as she slept with a mask over her eyes.
The following night he had sex on the mattress on which she had died with wedding planner Emma Harrison.
Wallner had been infatuated with her since they met at the Woodlands Park Hotel in Surrey, where they both worked.
After she dumped him, Wallner went on to have a number of new girlfriends as he played the grieving husband.
German-born Wallner met his South African wife Melanie at a hotel where they were working in 2001, and they married soon afterwards.
Bobbie Cheema, prosecuting, told the jury: “At the core of this case is the brutality and ruthlessness of this killing. She was murdered in cold blood.”This was a senseless killing motivated by the greed of this man to make way for a different woman in his life. “He is arrogant and brazen. “He sees himself as a charmer, someone who can explain himself out of just about anything. He simply ignores the flawed nature of his personality motivated by his wandering eye.
“Last summer, he still thought he could get away with it. He disposed of Melanie as if she was some waste to be dumped in a dustbin.”
Cheema added: “He apparently had no qualms about sleeping with Emma in the same bed where his wife had died not 24 hours earlier”
Wallner bought Harrison champagne at a romantic dinner to celebrate his 31st birthday.
Harrison said she thought he had separated from his wife and he later told her she had died suddenly.
She said: “He said he was going to have a private cremation.”
Wallner went on to spin a web of lies, sending texts and using Melanie’s credit card, before claiming a week later that she had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.
Wallner went on to tell lie after lie about his wife’s death, telling friends and family her sudden passing was from natural causes, the court heard.
“It was a heartless and sustained effort to stop them discovering the truth, and how it added to their sorrow one can only imagine,” said Cheema.
The Thistle Kensington Palace and Park Hotel where Melanie worked as an assistant beverages manager suggested a memorial service.
Cheema said: “The defendant agreed enthusiastically.
“He helped with the organisation, requesting white lilies and printing memorial cards.”
“Around 40 or 50 people attended. He made a speech praising his wonderful wife, but his bearing remained cold and emotionless.
“He was cold, unable to shed a tear and was dealing with the service ‘like he was arranging a business meeting’.”
Wallner spoke at the service and said “he didn’t believe in heaven, but he had heaven on Earth with Melanie”.
A memorial service was also arranged in Pretoria and Wallner was due to bring her “ashes” with him.
“He purchased and filled a funeral urn with ashes of wood he had burnt on his barbecue especially for the purpose,” said Cheema.
“Again the defendant went through the role of the grieving husband as the ashes were interred on Melanie’s father’s farm.”
Wallner had placed his wedding ring with Melanie’s name on it into the urn.
Melani’s devastated mother said Peter Wallner tricked her into believing her daughter had died naturally.
Jeanne Oosthuizen said her “suspicions kept growing” from the time that Wallner called the family in South Africa in 2006 to break the news of her daughter’s death.
Oosthuizen said Wallner told her his wife had collapsed in the night and died en route to hospital. “Peter said he woke up and heard a crash and ran downstairs and found her downstairs.
“He said he started mouthto-mouth resuscitation and called the ambulance but she died on the way to hospital.
“He said her body was with the coroner, they would do a post-mortem and specify the cause of death.
“I asked if I should come to London and he said yes. But he made me promise not to look at Mel.He said her face was black and bruised and he would like us to remember her the way she was.”
Oosthuizen flew to the UK and met him and he urged her once again not to request to see her daughter’s body.
Wallner later told Oosthuizen the coroner gave the cause of death as a brain aneurysm.
Oosthuizen said she started to become suspicious and requested her daughter’s death certificate. She and her husband repeatedly asked Wallner for the documentation.
He would promise to deliver it to them by different means but avoided actually handing the certificate over, she said.
When Wallner was due to present them with the certificate, he would make excuses, often concerning the health and well-being of his family.
“I felt terrible for this man,” said Oosthuizen.
“He lost his wife, then his father was ill and then his mother died.”
She decided not to chase Wallner for the certificate. She last heard from him on Boxing Day 2008.
When she and her husband were in the UK and asked to see him to collect the certificate, but he told her he was in Portugal “spending his inheritance”.
Wallner showed no emotion as he was found guilty.
Oosthuizen wept at the side of the court.
Melanie’s father, Petrus van der Merwe, hit out at Wallner for treating his daughter’s body like “rubbish”.
He said: “Melanie wasn’t rubbish – anything but – but Peter Wallner thought it good to gruesomely murder her in the most unthinkable manner and put her lifeless body in a sleeping bag and freeze her on his own property for three years.
“After that he threw her away... like trash, like rubbish in a wheelie bin.”
He added in a statement to the judge: “It haunts me every day to think that, while I was staying in Melanie’s house after her ‘supposed passing’, she was right there in a freezer outside the house.
“That thought eats away at my soul every day of my life. Why didn’t he just divorce her if he didn’t want her any more?”
He said the family had just begun to come to terms with her sudden death when “the dreadful truth of how our beloved daughter actually died was revealed”.
“It was as if she died for a second time and the terrible grief returned – this time coupled with anger and betrayal,” he said.
He added: “My heart and soul was ripped into a million pieces.”
Van der Merwe said of his daughter: “She was always so delightful, happy and spontaneous. Melanie was the most amazing person. She had a very bubbly personality and was full of laughter.”
Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall said after the verdict: “Peter Wallner is a cold-blooded killer who brutally murdered his innocent wife and then went to extraordinary lengths to try and conceal his crime.
“His lack of remorse for what he did to Melanie knew no bounds and he told lie after lie in a heartless attempt to evade capture.” – Daily Mail