News, Culture & Society

Ex-businessman who killed second wife tried to kill third

A former millionaire who tried killing his wife with a meat cleaver had already served a 10-year stretch for killing a previous spouse, it emerged today.   

Engineer Peter Horbury was handed a life sentence in 1992 after he stabbing second wife Caroline to death in front of their 10-year-old son.

But he was released on parole in 2002 – having only served a decade behind bars – and later married third spouse Patsie, whom he met at a prison fellowship group.

After 13 years of marriage Horbury, now 80, became jealous of his 78-year-old wife talking to their decorator. 

Preston Crown Court (pictured) heard Horbury used a meat cleaver to repeatedly hack at his wife’s head and stabbed her with a cooking knife

The octogenarian went berserk after his wife kissed him goodnight at their retirement flat in South Lakeland town of Kirkby Lonsdale.

Mrs Horbury was wearing her nightdress and about to get into bed when she was ambushed from behind at 

Horbury used a meat cleaver to repeatedly hack at her head and stabbed her with a cooking knife. 

He also battered her with a wooden item of fishing equipment which was broke during the savage assault. 

As Mrs Horbury lay critically injured on her bedroom floor, her husband was seen wandering streets in his pyjamaes while clutching the blood-stained cleaver and knife, saying: ‘I’ve murdered my wife.’

She spent two months in hospital after suffering 136 different injuries. 

They included a fractured eye socket, a fractured jaws and numerous cuts to her arms and hands and body – as well as a major wound to her right leg, which required a metal plate inserting.      

The little finger on her right hand was partially amputated and she suffered some strangulation, plus paralysis to one side of her face during the horrific onslaught. 

The violence she Mrs Horbury suffered is feared to have lasted for up to four hours, which a paramedic described as the ‘worst incident’ he had ever attended.

Today at Preston Crown Court, Horbury, who was charged with attempted murder, was held responsible for the attack by a jury.

But he will not go to jail as he has been diagnosed with dementia and was ruled unable to understand the proceedings.

Although currently in a prison hospital wing, it is expected he will be admitted to a secure psychiatric unit until doctors decide whether he is well enough to be freed. 

It is believed the ten year tariff had been decided by then Home Secretary Ken Clarke during the era when politicians set minimum terms for convicted killers.

During his lifetime Horbury, a father-of-three who hailed from a family of wealthy farmers, had amassed a fortune building pipelines in the Middle East but reports said he showed callous disregard to his loved ones.

First wife Della, who gave Horbury two children, was dumped by him in the early 1980s and she plunged in to a spiral of depression after being left to fend for the youngsters – one of whom had learning difficulties.

In 1991, aged 55, she was found frozen to death in a derelict building near her family home in Knottingley, West Yorkshire, after one daughter was admitted to a care home and the other forced to live in a caravan.

Horbury married second wife Caroline, a nurse, in 1982.

They moved into a luxury home in Mamhilad, near Pontypool, Gwent, South Wales and also bought a waterside flat in Westminster, London. 

They had son Daniel that same year and Horbury played the proud father – even buying the youngster a silver Alfa Romeo Spider for £20,000 which he kept in storage pending his son’s 17th birthday.

But by 1992 Horbury, then aged 55, wrongly convinced himself that Caroline, 47, was having an affair with a builder who was building an extension at their ranch-style property. 

During a confrontation he tried to strangle her in the bathroom before stabbing her five times in the back and neck. 

Daniel, then aged 10 witnessed the attack and called 999 but his mother was already dead by the time emergency services arrived.

At Cardiff Crown Court in November of that year a heartfelt recording of Daniel’s 999 call was played to the jury and the youngster was forced to relieve his ordeal in the witness box. 

He subsequently cut off all ties with his father, changed his name, enrolled at a boarding school and even told classmates his parents had died in a car crash.

When Horbury was sentenced to life the judge said Caroline was a devoted mother and a good wife and said any suggestion she was unfaithful was ‘entirely without foundation.’ 

The killer as later sued by his son for £49,000.

This week’s court hearing was told he met his future third wife, a prison visitor in 1997 when she attended a fellowship group he was part of. 

They married in 2003 a year after his release and they set up home in Northampton where he ran his own engineering firm before retiring to the Lakes.

In a statement to police, Mrs Horbury said: ‘We had a very happy relationship and we had a lot in common to talk about. 

‘We went everywhere, we went travelling after we got married, we did a lot of holidays – we went to France three times and also to Germany.

‘He is an intelligent man and I fell in love with him. We had 13 years of happy marriage but in the last few weeks I noticed that he was struggling. 

‘I said “do you think you ought to see the doctor” but he said “no not yet”. 

‘In the last few weeks he asked funny questions like “where do you come from?” and when we got to the bank I needed to help him with his PIN number.

‘He was a very intelligent man and comes across as a kind, thoughtful and very considerate but he would get angry with me and shout. 

‘It never got physical – he said he would never hurt me and I believed him. He is always suspicious of me talking negative things about him and I don’t know why. 

‘He just didn’t like me talking about him to other people and he doesn’t like me talking to men.

‘There was a decorator working in our bathroom who was very good but Peter got a bit angry as he didn’t like me talking to him. 

‘I said “why don’t you like me talking to other men?” but I can’t remember what he said – it made me feel angry with him.’

Recalling the alleged assault she added: ‘We had watched Countryfile on television and it was a normal quiet day. 

‘He was already in bed and I think I must have kissed him goodnight. 

‘I was in the main bedroom where I sleep – he sleeps in another bedroom – when he came in and bashed me on the head twice. I screamed for help but he didn’t say anything. 

‘I tried to defend myself and I screamed “help, help” and I held a chair against to protect myself.

‘But he just came behind me and was standing next to me when he hit me. I know the four legs of the chair touched him – I think I hurt him because of his hernia. 

‘The next thing I remember I heard someone saying something about an ambulance. 

‘That was the last thing I remember. Then I was woken up in hospital. I was shocked when he hit me – I didn’t understand why.’

The court heard the discovery of the grisly attack emerged after two motorists stopped when Horbury was seen in the street flagging down cars at 7am on October 26.

Hamish Keltie, 31, said: ‘He was covered in blood carrying a meat cleaver and a knife and was saying “please help me I’ve murdered my wife”. 

‘We went to his flat and saw what we thought was a body on the floor.

‘The room was covered in blood and there was blood all over the wall, bed and the floor. 

‘The lady’s top half was covered in blood and arms were in such a state, I’ve never seen anything like it. 

‘I couldn’t even tell whether her head was attached to her body – it was that bad. It looked like a butchers scene. 

‘She then came around and was very cold she kept shouting ‘cold, cold’ I put a jacket on her. I was very surprised to see that she was still alive.

‘Whilst this is going on this gentleman was asking me who was going to look after his dog. 

‘He was covered in blood and appeared distressed and crazed. He didn’t look like he was with it.’

Horbury was not in court for the hearing and his lawyer did not challenge any evidence. 

A jury said he had carried out the attack after spending just 16 minutes deliberating following a ‘finding of facts’ hearing.

Judge Graham Knowles QC, adjourned the case until April 20 pending a report about Horbury’s treatment programme.

In November 2000 politicians were stripped of the power to set minimum tariffs for child murderers following a European Court of Human Rights ruling over the murder of James Bulger. 

The ruling was applied to adult killers in 2002 and now only judges can set minimum terms.