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Woman cries as she tells of the moment she found dog-walker Peter Wrighton dead in woods

PUBLISHED: 13:49 21 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:44 22 February 2018

Peter Wrighton. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary

Peter Wrighton. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary

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A woman who found the body of murdered dog walker Peter Wrighton cried in court as she described the moment she realised he was dead.

Police conduct checks near the scene of the murder of Peter Wrighton.
 Picture: Nick ButcherPolice conduct checks near the scene of the murder of Peter Wrighton. Picture: Nick Butcher

Anne Precious was walking her west highland terrier with her husband Nigel through a woodland in East Harling, Norfolk, when she made the gruesome discovery on August 5.

Giving evidence at Nottingham Crown Court today, she said she initially thought the man had fallen over and was going to help him to get up.

But as she got closer she saw the extent of his injuries.

The court previously heard how Mr Wrighton, 83, of Banham, had been stabbed to death in an attack which left his head “almost severed from his body”.

Alexander Palmer. Picture: Facebook.Alexander Palmer. Picture: Facebook.

Former soldier Alex Palmer, 24, of Freesia Way, Cringleford, is on trial accused of his murder.

Mrs Precious said she spotted two dogs off their leads before finding Mr Wrighton’s body next to the walkway at around 10.50am.

She said: “I thought he had fallen over at first and I assumed he was the owner of the dogs.

“I did bend down initially and I was going to help him get up. But then I saw the injury and I was pretty sure he was dead.”

Mrs Precious, who was visibly upset in court, said she called over her husband who then phoned the police.

The court heard how the body was found to the left of the pathway and there was a “pool” of blood, around 20 inches in diameter, to the right of it.

Mrs Precious said there were two “tramlines” in the grass which gave the impression that Mr Wrighton’s body had been dragged.

Mr Wrighton, a married father and grandfather, had been stabbed repeatedly in the back of his head and neck.

Palmer, who appeared in court in a dark suit, denies murder.

Nigel Precious, who was with his wife when she found the body, said he thought it was a mannequin at first.

He said Mr Wrighton’s body was visible from the chin downwards and there was a “large open wound” to his neck.

“At first I was in a bit of shock. I thought it was a mannequin but then reality dawned and I realised it was a body.”

He said the body was facing upwards.

Police constable Andrew London was one of the first officers on scene.

Giving evidence this afternoon he said: “There was a large pool of blood to the side of the track,” he said. “I then looked left [of the track] and could see the body.

“When I got close to him, there was a massive part of his throat missing.

“I have never seen anything like it.”

The trial continues.

Dog walker used Facebook to search for man he saw in woodland

Earlier today, evidence was also given by dog walker Peter Bibby, who claimed to have used Facebook to identify Alex Palmer as the man he met in Harling Heath on August 5.

Mr Bibby told the court he arrived in the area at around 9.45am with his pet terrier, called Nelson.

He said he passed several dog walkers before spotting a man wearing “heavy duty flip flops, smart shorts and a shirt”.

“As I looked up it was a young gentleman with short wavey hair and angular features,” Mr Bibby said.

“He looked a tiny bit Italian.”

Mr Bibby said the man seemed well presented, which “made it odd” that he had come to a forest.

“He did not have a dog and seemed a bit out of place,” he added.

Mr Bibby told the court that he later searched for the name Alex Palmer on Facebook after it was circulated in the media.

He said: “I woke up in the middle of the night and kept looking on various websites to see if there was any news.

“I saw his name and thought as he is a young lad he probably has a Facebook page.

“I found one straight away.”

Prosecutor Stephen Spence asked him: “You saw a picture and believed it was the man you saw in the woods?”

Mr Bibby replied: “I am certain it was.”

But David Spens QC, defending, suggested that the witness was mistaken.

He said: “By the time you saw that image on Facebook, you knew this Alex Palmer was a suspect.

“I am going to suggest that when you thought the man that you saw on August 5 was the same Alex Palmer whose image you saw on Facebook, you are mistaken.”

Mr Bibby said that was not the case, adding: “It is difficult to describe someone, but when you have been in their presence and then you see them, that confirms you are correct.”

The trial continues.

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