Jilted lover held over murder of heiress

Exclusive Dave Mark THE former lover of heiress Suzy Healey is being questioned on suspicion of strangling her to death – only days after she called off their wedding.

The Yorkshire Post understands that George Holtby, 37, of South Cave, is the prime suspect in the investigation into the murder, which has devastated one of Britain's wealthiest families.

Ms Healey's body was discovered at her mansion, Ellerker Hall, in Ellerker, near Hull, on Monday morning.

A close friend had called for the respected animal lover to take their morning ride, but was unable to raise anybody at the property. Police were called and the daughter of Yorkshire furniture magnate Malcolm Healey was found dead shortly afterwards.

Mr Holtby, who lives with his parents in South Cave, had been involved in a relationship with Ms Healey for several months and it is understood they planned to marry before the end of the year, but mother-of-two Ms Healey, 39, had called off the wedding within the past two weeks.

Mr Holtby had recently left his job as office manager for a local cleaning firm, County Cleaning.

He was arrested within three hours of the alarm being raised.

It is understood that before his arrest in Whitby by officers from North Yorkshire Police he had been involved in a road accident in the resort, and members of the public had called police with concerns about his erratic driving.

He is thought to have spent much of the previous night at a North Yorkshire guest house. He was arrested and taken to Hull for questioning. Last night Humberside Police were granted another 12 hours until 6am today to question him.

A post mortem examination has shown that Ms Healey did not die of natural causes. The Yorkshire Post understands she was

strangled. Her body was formally identified by family yesterday.

A statement from the Healey family said: "We are devastated by Suzy's death, the circumstances of which are now under investigation by Humberside Police.

"We hope the media will understand this is a terrible shock for our family. We would ask that they respect our privacy and allow us to grieve and come to terms with our tragic loss without unwanted intrusion."

The Rev Peter Faulkener, of St Oswald Church, Hotham, near North Cave, where Malcolm Healey lives, said he had heard about the couple's wedding plans. He is also vicar of Ellerker.

He said: "I had heard Suzy was to be married, but I understood she didn't want to be married in Ellerker. She didn't ask me to marry them."

A regular at the nearby Buccaneer pub in Brough, where she frequently drank with her partner, said: "They were definitely due to get married but we heard that she had called it off. They always seemed a nice couple and she was lovely to talk to, if a little eccentric. They enjoyed a drink and he seemed pretty friendly."

Ellerker residents and those who knew Ms Healey are struggling to come to terms with her death. Her ex-husband and father of her two teenage daughters, Hull fish processing firm owner Tim Rose, told the Yorkshire Post: "I'm away with the children at the moment and we just need time to be left alone to grieve over this tragedy."

Close friend and godfather to her youngest daughter Jonathan Hick, managing director of Leeds-based Directorbank Executive Search, said: "We were neighbours as children and had a wonderful time. Suzy was always laughing – all her life. Although she enjoyed the privilege of good fortune, she maintained a kind and warm heart.

"Her wedding in 1988 was a life memory for the 30 friends and family present and her subsequent divorce was one of the most amiable I have ever seen. She leaves two lovely well-balanced girls for whom this is a dreadful tragedy."

John Hart, of Beverley, who once proposed marriage to her, said: "I just can't believe she's gone. The world has lost a truly wonderful person and I have lost a great friend. I don't know much about this man it seems she intended to marry, but those who care about her always hoped she would find happiness.

"We were friends for years. I only spoke to her a few days ago and invited her to a party. She said she had to go to this ball, but would far rather be with her friends having fun. That was her. She loved her own company, loved her animals and would do anything for anybody.

"Her home was such fun. I'll never forget her pool in the winter – empty but for a fabulous ebony drum kit and a punch bag.

"She knew how to dance and she knew how to party and how to make the most insecure and insignificant person feel special."

Ellerker Hall, in the centre of the small, quiet village of 300 residents, is a country mansion standing in 10 acres of land. Ms Healey, who much of the time lived in a cottage in the grounds, ran an animal sanctuary at the hall and was recognised for her work with neglected horses. Peter Bolton, of the local RSPCA, described her as a tremendous person who cared for animal welfare greatly. "She was just a lovely kind person who had a heart of gold when it came to animals," he said.

She was the middle child of Malcolm Healey, who together with his brother Eddie has an estimated fortune of 1,350m.