In the Media

Solicitor's strangler had attacked wife 22 years ago

PUBLISHED April 11, 2012

Doyle, 54, killed Sian Rees, 50, because he suspected she intended to leave him for the man she had met on the internet.

The jury at Exeter Crown Court which yesterday found him guilty of murder were never told that he had tried to strangle his first wife, Gina, in 1989 while living in Western Australia.

She survived the assault but later told a court she was convinced he had intended her to die.

The judge in Doyle's latest trial ruled that details of the earlier attack might prejudice the jurors.

Doyle was arrested after crashing his van as he headed towards Dartmoor to dispose of her body after killing her at the home they shared in Merton, North Devon.

Yesterday the man described by police as "dangerous and manipulative" was jailed for life, with the recommendation that he serve a minimum term of 16 years.

Judge Graham Cottle described as "preposterous" his defence that he had acted in self-defence when Miss Rees brandished a knife.

The court heard that Doyle's victim had been unhappy for months. However, the final straw came when he turned up drunk and late to pick her up from hospital following operation to remove a cancerous tumour on her breast.

Miss Rees had no idea of Doyle's violent past when she met him in Britain in 1997.

While in Australia he had separated from his first wife, but remained jealous and possessive. On New Year's Day 1989 - three years after the separation - he attacked her in a drunken rage as she slept with her new partner.

He attacked her boyfriend and then punched her 20 times in the face before trying to strangle her.

She told police in Wanneroo: "I was on my last breath and thought I was going to pass out when he let me go and went. He held my throat fairly hard and at one point I thought he was going to kill me."

Doyle admitted causing his estranged wife actual bodily harm and was sentenced to a period of community service.

The jury in Exeter heard that Miss Rees met Doyle through a dating agency while both were living on the Wirral, Merseyside - she as a solicitor, he as a charity fundraiser.

They renovated six houses together in Cheshire before moving to Devon after falling in love with the area during a weekend visit.

Miss Rees joined a legal practice in Okehampton, while he set about reburbishing the old mill house they bought in Merton.

Over the years she became dismayed by his drinking, while he complained about her putting on weight.

As the relationship foundered Miss Rees met a dentist, David Protheroe, in an internet chat room. The couple never met, but she started a crash diet in anticipation of eventually doing so.

The solicitor concealed her identity by logging onto the internet using the alias Sindy Sox.

She and Doyle rowed when he found about her friendship with Mr Protheroe.

Her best friend, Marion Boyle, a fellow solicitor she had met while both were at the University of Aberystwyth, recalled her describing the row as "cathartic".

She added: "It brought everything to a head and freed her to tell him how unhappy she was. She was not a great one for confrontation and tried to avoid it at all costs."

The final straw came on June 30 last year when Doyle turned up late and drunk to collect her from The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital following her operation.

Despite still coming from a general anaesthetic, she had no option but to drive them both home.

She intended to spend what would have been her first night of freedom in a hotel, but as she began to pack he lunged at her with both a knife and a bra he used as a ligature.

The next morning he set off to hide her body on nearby Dartmoor, but crashed his Ford Fiesta van en route.

Miss Boyle and another of the dead woman's friends, Sally Griffiths, said in a statement that Miss Rees had been "about to embark on a wonderful new phase of her life".

They added: "Doyle has shown no remorse for his actions and clearly feels none."