Man murdered wife then cut up her body, prosecutors tell Norwich Crown Court

A Norfolk man killed his wife before cutting her body up in the bath and redecorating their cottage in a bid to cover his tracks, prosecutors alleged yesterday.

Friends and family of barmaid Emma Ward, 22, first began to suspect something had happened when they called at her rented house in Rockland St Peter, near Attleborough, to deliver cards and presents for her birthday on April 9.

Her husband, Nicky Ward, 29, believed to have been unemployed, told them she was visiting a friend. Over the weeks that followed he repeatedly made excuses for her absence, prosecutor Simon Spence told Norwich Crown Court.

It was only when Mrs Ward's family contacted police on May 22 that the truth began to emerge. Officers found Ward moving out of the couple's home and when questioned he told them his wife had left him. When his belongings were searched blood stained bed sheets and furniture were found along with an electric saw purchased days after Miss Ward's disappearance.

Mr Spence said: 'This was clearly a marriage with both emotional and financial problems. As a result of these problems, at some point between early April and late May, this defendant attacked and killed his wife in the bedroom of their cottage.

'As a result of this attack she was bleeding heavily. He dragged her still bleeding body to the bathroom. He put her into the bath and cut her up with a reciprocating saw.

'He must have disposed of the body parts because no trace of Emma Ward or any part of her has ever been found.

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'He set about covering his tracks in a careful and cunning way. But he wasn't as careful as he thought and as a result of the mistakes he made police and forensic experts have been able to reconstruct events.'

Mr Spence added that Mrs Ward's father, David Noonan, last saw her alive on March 23. Friends saw her in the village towards the end of the month. But he said: 'We may never know whether she celebrated her 22nd birthday or not.'

Records show that the day before Mrs Ward's birthday, her husband rented a carpet cleaner and bought items including the saw, saw blades and paint from a hardware store.

Talking to an old school friend on social networking website Facebook Ward, originally from Essex, said he had spent two days doing DIY including painting the bedroom and cleaning the house with 'bleach and a bucket'.

When a forensic examination was carried out, experts found he had painted the skirting board but blood stains could be found below the carpet line.

The bath had scratches which may have been caused by the saw and which contained traces of Mrs Ward's blood. A bucket was found in the kitchen with a blood 'tidemark'.

Mr Spence said that the letting agent responsible for the couple's cottage, received an email purporting to be from Mrs Ward giving notice to quit. 'The agent noticed that the emails were not written in the same manner as those previously received from Mrs Ward,' he added.

Television Licensing also received a letter carrying Mrs Ward's name asking for a rebate cheque to be re-issued in the defendant's name.

When questioned by police before his arrest, Ward told officers his wife had left him and left a note on their computer reading 'I've found a real man'. He said he had 'thrown away' the note.

Concerns over Mrs Ward's welfare had grown for several weeks as friends noticed she was not returning phone calls and text messages and was never home when they called to visit. Mrs Ward, an 'avid' user of Facebook, had not visited the site for some time.

After his arrest, Ward continued to insist that his wife had left him. He claimed he had suffered an assault several years earlier and as a result suffered from memory loss. Police checks established that this attack did happen but there was no medical evidence of memory loss.

The couple married in 2007 but Mrs Ward left her husband in 2009. They re-established their relationship and he moved into the cottage she had rented in Rockland St Peter.

Ward, of Chapel Road, Rockland St Peter, denies murder. The trial is expected to last about one week.