Tax inspector ‘killed husband then fled to Whitby’

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A TAX inspector killed her husband for a share of their home, then fled to Whitby, the Old Bailey heard today.

Don Banfield, 63, disappeared without trace in 2001, allegedly after being murdered by his wife and daughter.

“When he signed the contract for the sale, he was unwittingly signing his own death warrant,” said Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting.

Shirley Banfield and daughter Lynette Banfield went on to fraudulently draw his private and state pensions whilst claiming Mr Banfield was still alive, the court heard.

With the proceeds from the sale of the family home in Wealdstone, north-west London, and pension payments, the women benefited by £123,000 over the next eight years.

When a police investigation was re-opened into Mr Banfield’s disappearance in 2009, the women claimed they had seen him the previous Christmas, said Mr Aylett.

Within six months of the disappearance, the two women had moved to Whitby, North Yorkshire, despite having no links there.

“This move has the hallmark of an attempt to distance themselves from anyone asking too many questions about what had happened to Don,” Mr Aylett said.

They had then gone to live in York before moving to Kent in 2005, he said.

They now admit this was a lie and have pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, forgery and conspiracy to pervert justice.

But Shirley, 64, and Lynette, 40, both of Ashford Road, Canterbury, Kent, deny murder.

The court was told that Mr Banfield, who had just retired after 24 years as the manager of William Hill bookmakers in Hampstead, north London, had not been seen since Friday May 11 2001.

Shirley, who now walks with a stick, had been on long-term sick leave from the Inland Revenue and later claimed incapacity benefit to which she was not entitled, on a form which she claimed had entries by her husband.

Mr Aylett said Shirley and Mr Banfield’s son Kevin, 43, told police his mother confessed to him that she had lied to cover up the fraud, but had denied killing him.

In the days leading up to the disappearance, Mr Banfield complained to police, his doctor and old friend Rod McIntosh that “his wife and daughter were trying to kill him”.

But three days later, the day he was last seen, Mr Banfield had asked a police officer not to follow up the complaint.

“He was biding his time. Once the house was sold, he was planning on making a new life for himself on his own with the £60,000 he was expecting from the sale of the house,” said Mr Aylett.

“At the time, Don Banfield was obviously expecting to receive a large amount of money from the sale of the house.

“He also had his pension from William Hill to live on. He had decided to set up a new life for himself on his own.

“Shirley, on the other hand, perhaps faced a rather bleaker future. She was 54 and on the verge of being abandoned without money to re-house both herself and Lynette.

“Without Don’s pension, or only a share of it, they would have less money to live on than before.

“This must have caused the tension in the household to make Don Banfield fear for his own safety.”

Within days of him being last seen by the police, the women had begun helping themselves to his pension, and within weeks to his share of the proceeds from the sale of the house.

“They can only have done so in the certain knowledge that he would not be coming back to expose them,” added Mr Aylett.

His friend Mr McIntosh reported Mr Banfield missing to police on May 19 2001.

An officer went to the house in Locket Road and was told by Lynette that she had seen him in the bathroom on Sunday May 13. Shirley claimed he had left without saying where he was going.

“In other words, he just disappeared, vanished from their lives,” said Mr Aylett.

“They told the officer that he often disappeared for long periods of time, they said they were not worried about him. The officer accepted what he was told.”

Things began to unravel in 2008 when William Hill stopped paying the pension, followed by the state pension being halted the year after.

When police re-opened the case in 2009, Shirley allegedly told them she believed Mr Banfield had gone back to Trinidad, where he was born.

The day before he disappeared, Mr Banfield told his doctor that, a fortnight earlier, he had woken in the middle of the night to find he had been handcuffed behind his back.

He said his wife had been trying to tie down his legs and put a plastic bag over his head, but he managed to get up.

He told a policeman the following morning that he thought he had been struck on the back of the head.

“At first, he thought that he must have been dreaming. However, when he touched the back of his head, it had felt sore,” said Mr Aylett.

He said two weeks later, he woke to find his daughter squirting furniture polish into his eyes. Shirley had then confronted him with a knife.

Mr Banfield had also been concerned about the food which his wife cooked for him, fearing she might have been trying to poison him.

But he did not want police to do anything because he could not risk Shirley knowing he had contacted officers, said Mr Aylett.