Murder trial background: friends pay tribute to Norfolk woman Emma Ward

Yesterday Nick Ward was jailed for a minimum of 22 years for murdering his wife Emma Ward at their home in Rockland St Peter, near Attleborough. Crime correspondent BEN KENDALL talks to those who new the couple.

Kirsty Sillett and Julie Wilby were among a group of Emma Ward's friends and family who attended every day of the trial.

When Emma first went missing between late March and May last year, they led public appeals to help find their friend. A group set up on social networking site Facebook attracted more than 7,400 people, initially to help trace the 22-year-old and later paying tribute to her.

On Saturday, which would have been Emma's 23rd birthday, friends and family gathered in her home village of Rockland St Peter to release purple balloons with private messages attached. Speaking outside court, Miss Sillett said: 'We are glad he has been found guilty and has been given a long sentence, but that will not bring Emma back and no punishment is enough for what he did.

'In court he tried to blacken Emma's name but we know what she was really like. She was always smiling and always had something she wanted to chat about. She was brilliant fun but she was also somebody who you could rely upon.'

Miss Wilby added: 'Emma was the kind of friend that you could confide in and know that she wouldn't tell anybody else. She would always listen and would have some advice to share. We all miss her so much.'

Giving evidence at Norwich Crown Court, killer Nicky Ward was asked to describe his average day. 'Get up, clean the house, play on the computer, maybe go to the shops or park,' the unemployed 29-year-old answered.

Most Read

Originally from Basildon, Essex, Ward met his future wife and victim Emma on social networking website Facebook. Within days they had begun a relationship and within weeks she had moved in with Ward's mother in Essex. Within a year they were married.

Ward, who dressed smartly and struggled to retain his composure throughout the trial, tried his hand at various jobs including a sofa salesman and taxi driver. At the time of the killing he had been training to become a freelance web designer. But Emma, who worked as a barmaid and waitress, was the main financial provider and she grew increasingly frustrated at his inactivity, branding him a 'good for nothing lay about'.

Ian Hopkins lived next door to the couple's cottage in Chapel Street, Rockland St Peter. He remembered Emma as a friendly neighbour but said he never warmed to Ward.

He said: 'I was in their house one day chatting to Emma and she invited me to watch the football at their house because they had a new television. He came in and ignored me and she just said 'that's my husband' and I sensed I should leave.

'I remember calling at the house shortly before she went missing. He answered the door and I could see her standing behind him looking stoney faced, nothing like she normally was. I thought at the time that I should ask her if she was OK and I wish now I had. Maybe I could have stopped what happened.'

Ward was obsessed with cars and owned a Mitsubishi Evo which he regularly cleaned. Other than that his only other interest was computer games.

Mr Hopkins often helped with the couple's gardening as Emma was left to do it alone as Ward 'never lifted a finger around the house' – making his attempts to redecorate the house after Emma's killing all the more suspicious. Mr Hopkins said: 'He was a professional manipulator and she was terrified by him. They said in court that he had no history of violence, but I believe he was knocking her about. He seemed very cold and I'm convinced that he returned to her because he wanted to get rid of her. If he couldn't have her, nobody could.'