The conman planned to kill his wealthy future wife “almost the minute” he met her, a court heard.

A convicted fraudster planned to kill his wealthy future wife “almost the minute” he met her, a barrister has told a court.

Donald McPherson, 50, was ordered not guilty of the 2017 murder of his wife Paula Leeson, 47, at a judge’s instruction to a jury midway through his trial in 2021. They lived in Sale, Trafford.

Carrying wads of money wrapped in rubber bands, McPherson liked to give the impression of a good man, but was in reality a “straw man”, it was said.

READ MORE: As horrifying video was shared among neighbors, they simply said: “Jesus Christ”

But the judge ruled that despite the circumstantial evidence, a jury could not be certain under the criminal standard — beyond a reasonable doubt — that he killed her. Ms Leeson’s family have now brought legal proceedings against McPherson at Manchester Civil Courts.

They want a judge to rule, using the civil standard of the balance of probabilities, that McPherson unlawfully killed her by suffocating her unconscious and drowning her in a swimming pool while on vacation in Denmark. He would then lose any legal right to benefit from his late wife’s will and estate, worth £4.4m.

McPherson took out several secret life insurance policies on his wife before her death, worth £3.5 million, the court heard.

“The defendant is a morally corrupt person and that dishonesty permeates every aspect of this case,” said Lesley Anderson KC, representing the Leeson family, in her closing speech after a four-week hearing. “In our case, this was a plan almost the moment he met Paula. The defendant began to draw up policies with indecent haste.

Donald McPherson(Image: CPS)

“He killed her because of the significant motive of the insurance policies. This case is extraordinary because the defendant is lying to almost everyone in this case. All the facts, taken together, make it much more likely that he killed Paula.”

Ms Anderson said McPherson, despite being penniless, was paying around £500 a month on insurance policies. Mrs Leeson, who was 5ft 5in tall, drowned in the pool which was less than 4ft deep, although she could swim and was an otherwise healthy mother. Lawyers for the Leeson family argue that to save herself from drowning, she could have simply stood up, so she must have been suffocated before being put in the water, unconscious.

The couple married in a no-frills ceremony at a Cheshire castle in 2014 after a “vote of love”. Born Alexander James Lang and originally from New Zealand, McPherson met Ms Leeson in 2013, using a “cover story” about being an orphan to hide his past after serving time for an £11m bank fraud of pounds in Germany, the court heard.

He claimed to be a property developer and Mrs Leeson oversaw the letting with part of her family’s successful business her father Willy, 80, had built up in Sale, Greater Manchester, after emigrated from County Wicklow, Ireland in the 1960s.

Mrs Leeson and her brother Neville agreed to inherit the business. The court heard that McPherson is described as a “Walter Mitty” who changed his name several times, had 32 convictions over 15 years in three countries and whose previous wife and their child died in a house fire.

McPherson told police he woke up to find Ms Leeson face down in the shallow pool of a holiday cottage in far west Denmark he had booked for the couple on June 6, 2017. Her death it was initially treated as a tragic accident by the Danish authorities – although she had suffered 13 separate external injuries.

Within hours he had transferred thousands of pounds from her accounts to cover her debts, the court heard. Soon after, McPherson cleared his Sale home of his late wife’s belongings and joined a bereavement group, Widowed And Young – which he called “Tinder for widows”.

He was later arrested in the UK while police looked into his finances. McPherson has always denied any involvement in his wife’s death and, after being acquitted of murder, described it as a “tragic accident” in a statement through his lawyers.

His lawyers argued that Ms Leeson’s injuries could be the result of her being rescued from the pool and resuscitation attempts, and pathologists could not rule out that she could have passed out or accidentally fallen into the pool and drowned.

McPherson contests the Leesons’ court application but is not present or legally represented at the hearing and is believed to be living somewhere in the South Pacific. Judge Richard Smith is expected to rule on the Leesons’ application later this year.

Related Articles

Back to top button