Murder of Robert Wignall at Addlestone 1992

1992, 5 September: Robert Wignall murdered at Addlestone: Officer in Case Detective Supt. Pat Crossan. Involved a team of twenty officers and a number of scientific specialists. Three people were arrested and sent for trial.356

Ref No. 2004/565/MTR

  1. This is an application under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, Schedule 22, paragraph 3, for the setting of a minimum term to be served by a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder.
  2. Terence Harry Rowland Bewley was tried with two co-defendants, Sandra Wignall and Harold Moult at the Central Criminal Court. All three were convicted of the murder of Sandra Wignall's husband Robert. On 19 November 1993, the trial judge, His Honour Judge Denison QC, sentenced each to life imprisonment.
  3. The learned judge's report indicates that Sandra Wignall began a sexual relationship with Bewley in 1989. In 1990 she became friendly with Robert Wignall and when in 1991 Bewley broke off their relationship, she turned to Robert Wignall and they married in December 1991. Shortly afterwards Bewley got in touch with her and they resumed their sexual relationship. By the summer of 1992 she was expressing dissatisfaction with her marriage and her husband began to suspect her of being unfaithful. On the evening of 5 September 1992 she went for a walk with her husband in the woods behind her house. She performed oral sex upon him and he was then attacked by Bewley and Moult and stabbed and beaten to death. She later told her brother that she had helped to arrange the killing.
  4. The learned judge's view was that Moult was recruited by Bewley and was the least involved. He may have thought up to the last minute that he was assisting in no more than a beating. Bewley took a leading part in the attack, which resulted from a plot between him and Sandra Wignall to dispose of her husband and obtain the proceeds (£21,000) of his life insurance. Sandra Wignall arranged the killing because of her obsession with Bewley.
  5. The trial judge recommended 20 years for this Applicant. Lord Taylor CJ agreed. The tariff was fixed at 20 years. The tariffs for Sandra Wignall and for Moult were 15 years and 10 years respectively, following the recommendations of the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice.
  6. I have statements from the victim's family, which set out the continuing effect of the murder on them.
  7. The Applicant had previously been sentenced in 1972 to life imprisonment for a murder committed in the course of a robbery. He had been released on licence in January 1982.
  8. The Applicant has continued to deny his guilt. Much of the material submitted in support of this application by the Applicant and by his solicitors is directed to an attempt to challenge the correctness of his conviction. The material includes a transcript of the summing up of Judge Denison QC and of the submission of no case to answer that was made at the trial. The fact that he continues to deny his guilt does not count against him, in my view, on this application. However, the submissions directed to challenging his conviction are wholly misconceived. For the purposes of the present application he stands convicted and there is no reason to go behind the trial judge's report.
  9. I must have regard to paragraph 4 of Schedule 22 of the 2003 Act. The relevant factors are the seriousness of the offence, the time spent on remand, the length of the notified minimum term, the general principles set out in Schedule 21 that now apply to minimum terms, and the recommendations made by the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice.
  10. As to Schedule 21, the Applicant, if he was being sentenced today, would be subject to a whole life order, because of his previous conviction for murder. Such an order is normally made in such circumstances: paragraph 4(1) and (2)(d). I can see no reason why such an order would not follow here. Even in the absence of a whole life order, a starting point of 30 years would have been inevitable.
  11. The tariff of 20 years demonstrates no error, on the principles that applied at the time.
  12. It is also submitted that the minimum term should be reduced on the ground that he has made exceptional progress. Although Cole, Rowland and Hawkes [2003] EWHC Admin 1789 preceded the passing of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the Divisional Court clearly considered that the High Court could take into account exceptional progress. The previous practice of the Secretary of State had been to make a reduction in a few cases of 1 year and in a very few cases 2 years.
  13. The reported progress is good, but I do not consider that it amounts to exceptional progress. In any event, it could in my view not result in a reduction in the circumstances of a whole life order.
  14. The Applicant has requested an oral hearing. It is said that this is required in order that witnesses can be called to deal with the Applicant's behaviour in prison. In my view the behaviour can be adequately assessed on the papers submitted. In any event, even if the behaviour had been wholly exceptional, this is not a case in which a reduction in the term would have been appropriate. I therefore refuse an oral hearing.
  15. Having regard to all the relevant factors, I conclude that the minimum term should be 20 years, as was the tariff set, subject to a deduction of 12 months and 18 days for the period on remand.

Gary Tovey: I was one of the first officers on the scene of the Wignall murder, being the Chertsey late turn car. The message came out as a serious assault if I remember correctly.

I spoke with the wife who was later convicted of the murder with her boyfriend who was out of prison on licence for murder. She said that they had been out feeding a fox when they were approached by someone who was looking for a small dog. She said they then attacked her husband and she fled.

Stayed at the scene all night I think with Nicky Devine WPC 1423. She was a very hard and cold woman; I spent quite a bit of time with her after at court and she showed little or no remorse.


Return to main text

356 Annual Report 1992.


Surrey Constabulary badge