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DJ denies wife murder; Only pounds 4 found out of accused man's pounds 400,000 winnings.

Byline: Richard Elias Crime Correspondent

A PART-TIME DJ from Merseyside who won pounds 400,000 on the National Lottery strangled his wife days after she began divorce proceedings, a court was told yesterday.

But despite intensive police inquiries to find Michael O'Leary's cash, only pounds 4 had been traced, Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday.

According to the Crown, the defendant suffered from a longstanding delusional jealousy over his wife, Michelle.

O'Leary claimed she had repeatedly been unfaithful, on a scale, according to Charles Chruszcz QC, prosecuting, that the jury "may consider to be quite unrealistic".

The 39-year-old's body was discovered by her student daughter, Catherine, who yesterday gave a tearful account of the night last April.

The defendant is believed to have stashed much of his winnings in off-shore bank accounts as well as other investments.

O'Leary is known to have spent pounds 17,000 on a new car and pounds 25,000 paying off his mortgage following his win in November, 1995.

However, it is known that he kept news of his windfall a secret from most people in Newton-le-Willows, where he lived.

Mr Chruszcz said: "He invested this money himself, investing into relatively small investments, accounts in different locations all over the country.

"It can be established that in June 1996, there was pounds 348,000 still invested. When asked about finances and money, the defendant lied to police, because he said he had no money at all.

"We say he has been very canny. He moved money about, making regular transactions to small accounts."

The interest on O'Leary's win would have been between pounds 50,000 and pounds 60,000 said the prosecutor, but he accrued more money through bonds as well as winning extra cash on Premium Bonds.

The couple married in 1982 but the relationship had deteriorated so much that at the time of her death, they were living virtually separately.

Mr Chruszcz said: "They had separate bedrooms, they rarely spoke and if they did the conversation tended to be acrimonious.

"The defendant made a living installing television aerials and as a part-time disc jockey.

"In the year before her death, Mrs O'Leary's life had changed.

She had taken a business course and got a job with a transport company.

"She was successful and well-liked and she had become increasingly confident."

The alleged incident occurred on Friday, April 6 this year at the couple's home which they shared with their two children, Catherine, 20 and 16-year-old Ryan.

That evening, a friend of the dead woman, Lindsay Purcell, called at the house for a pre-arranged night out. But when she knocked, O'Leary answered and, according to her evidence, he was "rather shocked" to see her there.

The defendant's daughter then came to the door and suggested to Miss Purcell that her mother may have popped round to a neighbours.

The pair planned to go and look for her but Catherine decided to check her mother's bedroom and seconds later Miss Purcell heard a scream ". . . the like of which I had never heard before."

Catherine recalled yesterday: "I saw my mum lying on the floor. Lying flat on her back with her arms by her sides.

"She was alongside her bed with her head near the couch.

When I looked closer her lips were blue. I checked for a heartbeat and a pulse but could not find anything."

Questioned about her parents' relationship, Miss O'Leary said: "He said she was a whore and no good and accused her of sleeping with hundreds and hundreds of men."

O'Leary alleged his wife had attacked him after they had a row and he had only tried to subdue her.

He told detectives: "We were arguing. I said I wanted a blood test on my daughter and she went mad. She was also beating me but I never hit her."

Said Mr Chruszcz: "He maintained this long-standing delusional jealousy about his wife.

"He made allegations that she had sex with every man in a given street, given families - sexual intercourse with huge numbers of men and that she had been adulterous on a scale which may be considered to be unrealistic.

"The defendant admitted causing his wife's death but denied any crime at all. He claims he sat upon her and she tried to bite his nose but bit his hand.

"He put his hands on her throat to subdue her and she stopped moving about and went limp."

But a post-mortem revealed "extensive bruising on the deceased's neck. . . . which was the result of a severe pressure being applied to the throat."

Said Mr Chruszcz: "We do not say that (money) is why he killed his wife but on March 20 this year Michelle O'Leary saw a solicitor about starting divorce proceedings and on April 6 she was dead.

"Divorce normally brings inquiries into the financial status of partners for a division of the spoils.

"Is that why the defendant lost his temper and did what he did? He made serious allegations about her for five years. The suggestion that she attacked him and bit his finger and began the argument is palpable nonsense."

O'Leary, 53, of Rokeden, denies murder.

The case continues.

CAPTION(S):

TEARS: Catherine O'Leary leaving court yesterday. Left, the family home VICTIM: Michelle O'Leary with daughter Catherine
COPYRIGHT 2001 MGN Ltd.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 3, 2001
Words:880
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