Sunday Tribune

He killed his South African wife, dumped her body in a wheelie-bin, then went on hol­i­day with a woman friend

- Crime · Viral · Incidents · London · Malta · South Africa · United Kingdom · Portugal · Pretoria · Old Bailey · Cobham · Kensington Palace · Kensington Palace · Woodlands Park Hotel

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

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