Love letters prove murderers' guilt, court hears

 

A senior firefighter battered his lover's husband to death with a hockey stick after they planned a life together in secret love letters, it was claimed today.

Mr Paul Gault (34) was killed at his home in Lisburn, Co Antrim just weeks after he found out his wife was having an affair, Belfast Crown Court was told.

Mr Neil Gordon Graham (40) and Ms Lesley Anne Gault (34) are accused of the killing in May 2000. Both have pleaded not guilty.

As their trial began, intimate correspondence between the pair was read out which the prosecution claimed showed a plot to murder the father of triplets.

Mr Patrick Lynch QC, for the Crown, said Mr Graham, of Wheatfield, Ballygowan, Co Down had written hundreds of pages of love letters to Mrs Gault.

He told the jury one note dated April 16th - two weeks before Mr Gault learned of the affair - read: "We will never regret the step that we are about to take."

The murder victim discovered the shattering truth on May Day 1998, the Mr Lynch claimed.

Mr Graham was an assistant divisional fire officer based at the Northern Ireland Fire Service's Lisburn headquarters at the time of the killing. Mrs Gault also worked there in an administrative role.

Three days after their secret was uncovered the officer was alleged to have written to his lover, urging her not to let her husband block their relationship, the court heard.

"Don't let it extinguish that fire. It yearns to burn brightly," the letter read.

It was alleged he added: "I know you are probably under interrogation as I write. Let me plan our escape."

The final note was dated less than a week before Mr Gault was bludgeoned to death on May 19th at the Audley Avenue home in Lisburn where he lived with his wife and their five-year-old daughters.

Mr Lynch claimed the firefighter wrote: "I hate, hate, hate him mistreating and abusing someone that I am so in love with.

"But we know now that he has lost and we will be together."

As the detailed and passionate declarations of love were read out Mrs Gault sat with her head bowed in the dock.

Her co-accused stared straight ahead while behind him, his wife's eyes were fixed on the floor.

In a trial expected to last six weeks the prosecution laid out its opening case before a jury of 10 men and two women.

While Mr Graham scribbled almost constantly in a notepad, Mr Lynch alleged he had clubbed his lover's husband to death with a hockey stick before returning to work to give a fire demonstration.

The barrister said the murder had been set up to look like a burglary.

He said: "They [the accused] hatched a terrible scheme to remove what was the main impediment to their relationship.

"Gordon Graham actually killed Mr Gault in his home by virtue of crushing his skull with a hockey stick that's kept in his house."

Mr Lynch also said Mr Gault had been attacked in his home after returning from dropping his daughters off to school.

A back door window had been smashed and was jewellery strewn across the bedroom.

He said this was a "sham" to cover a much more serious and calculated crime plotted by the two accused.

Despite the viciousness of the attack, no blood stains were found outside the bedroom.

The prosecution claimed this was because Graham's job gave him access to protective clothing which he wore in the attack and then disposed of.

But his DNA traces on a sports bag found at the scene and a shard of glass found in his shoe which matched the broken window pointed to his guilt, it was claimed.

The victim, who worked as a transport manager for JHC Hardware in Belfast, had taken the Friday he was murdered off work because he had planned a weekend break in Co Fermanagh with his wife.

Mr Lynch accepted Mrs Gault was not present when her husband was attacked, but insisted she was an essential part of the conspiracy.

"It could only have happened with the connivance and active co-operation of Lesley Gault," he said.

The barrister claimed Mr Gault rarely took days off work and that his wife needed to take him with her on the school run so her lover could get into their home.

When he returned home to finish packing for their weekend away he would be taken by surprise, Mr Lynch claimed.

He added: "On this particular morning he went to school, giving that window of opportunity to enter the house and be in a position to ambush the deceased in the bedroom."

The court also heard that Mr Graham had no alibi for the time of the murder, having asked his boss for time off to attend to some business in Lisburn town centre.

"This evidence points inexorably to one conclusion: that it was Gordon Graham in that bedroom with that hockey stick who murdered Paul Gault."

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

PA