A woman encouraged her lover to murder her wealthy husband after months of plotting fuelled by a shared “venomous hatred” of him, a court has heard.
William Taylor, known as Bill, was last seen at his home in Harkness Hall, in Gosmore, Hertfordshire, on 3 June last year, days before his 70th birthday. He had been missing for eight months before a member of the public found his body in a river in February.
Angela Taylor, 53, and Paul Cannon, 54, both of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, deny murder, arson and an alternative charge of conspiracy to murder.
John Price QC, prosecuting, told St Albans crown court on Wednesday: “The prosecution alleges that Ms Taylor and her lover Mr Cannon together plotted to kill her husband. We say they did that over many weeks, indeed, for at least four months.
“It will become apparent, we say, that he and she shared and encouraged each other in a venomous hatred for William Taylor. They loathed him.”
WhatsApp messages recovered from Cannon’s phone between him and Angela Taylor “reveal a pervasive, bitter hatred for Mr Taylor”, and the pair discussed harming him, Price said.
Jurors will hear a transcript of hundreds of messages on Thursday, and were told by Price that the pair had expressed concern about the exchanges being discovered by police.
It is alleged that Angela Taylor also persuaded Cannon to pay another man, Gwyn Griffiths, to help him kill her husband. Griffiths, 60, of Folkestone in Kent, denies murder and the alternate charge of conspiracy to murder.
Cannon, a farm labourer, started a sexual relationship with Angela Taylor in late 2017 while living rent-free at Harkness Hall as a lodger, the court heard. Bill Taylor became “angered and distressed” when he suspected the affair and was “shocked and very upset” when his wife served a second set of divorce proceedings in March 2018, Price said.
His “implacable” opposition to granting a divorce caused “bitter resentments” in Angela Taylor and had a “similar effect” on Cannon, he added.
The pair allegedly began threatening and harassing Bill Taylor, with Cannon allegedly telling him he would “get it” after the farmer confronted him about the affair, jurors heard.
Angela Taylor had first filed for divorce in April 2014 and had acquired two nearby farms debt-free, Dog Kennel farm and Mill farm, as part of a financial settlement, the court was told.
Price said: “Mr Taylor had become over the years the owner of a very substantial farming estate. He was a very wealthy man by measurement of the value of the land that he owned.
“Despite settling her financial claims, he was not reconciled to the idea of a divorce and would not agree to it. He made it clear he wanted her back. She was not interested.”
The court heard the Taylors met in 1992 and married in 1997, and had three children together. Bill Taylor also had a son, Richard, from a previous marriage, and the two sides of the family were said to have “strongly disliked each other” for years, Price told jurors.
Days before he went missing, Bill Taylor’s Land Rover had been seriously damaged by fire after an accelerant-soaked towel was set alight inside it, the court heard.
DNA on the towel matched the profile of Cannon and also of Gavin Foulds, the adult son of Angela Taylor from a relationship before she met Bill, who was living with her at the time on Mill farm.
Price said: “At the very least, submits the prosecution, this scientific evidence shows where the fabric used by the arsonist to start the fire came from – Mill farm, the home of Angela Taylor.”
The trial continues.
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