Murder accused John Taylor told vicar wife Alethea was dead, trial hears

The funeral director whose wife vanished without trace later told the vicar of his Shropshire-border parish she was dead and he was now in love with another woman, a court heard.

Alethea-Taylor
Alethea Taylor

The Reverend Christine Mundell said she was shocked at John Taylor’s ‘angry’ comment made three months after his wife Alethea disappeared. Taylor, 61, denies murdering 63-year-old Mrs Taylor and disposing of her body.

The trial at Worcester Crown Court has heard how Taylor reported his wife missing from the bungalow they shared in Mortimer Drive in the village of Orleton, near Ludlow, on January 19 last year.

Nobody has seen or heard from retired primary school teacher Mrs Taylor since and her body has not been found.

The court has heard Taylor had a lover, Alison Dearden, from the nearby village of Brimfield, whom he had begun an affair with six months before his wife disappeared.

Rev Mundell, team vicar of the Leominster Ministry which covers Orleton, told the court she had known the Taylors for four years, both as friends and through their involvement in St George’s Church in Orleton.

Yesterday, on day 11 of the trial, she said Taylor came to her house in early April last year, three months after his wife vanished.

The 68-year-old clergywoman said: “He came to tell me about his friendship with Alison (Dearden) ‘before I heard from anybody else’. He told me that he had fallen in love and how wonderful she was. I was so stunned and shocked half of it went over my head.”

She added: “I said there can be nothing between you until Alethea comes back and John said ‘She’s dead’.

“There was no kindness in the way he said it, no hopefulness. It was just quite decided. I thought he’s angry at me for mentioning Alethea when he was telling me of Alison.”

She admitted under cross-examination she did not report the matter to police until much later and, when Taylor was arrested in June, had in fact written a glowing reference about him to a judge in an effort to help with an ultimately failed bail application.

When defence QC Mr Ignatius Hughes suggested she would not have written a good reference for someone she believed had killed his wife she said: “That is why the comment went straight out of my head.”

Mr Hughes also suggested Taylor’s comment about his wife being dead had been made in despair whereas Mrs Mundell was still hopeful that she was alive.

The trial continues and is likely to last for another 11 days.