Broker paid wife’s life insurance up to date before her murder, court told

A mortgage broker who had about £300,000 of debt paid his wife’s life insurance policy up to date, days before killing her at their home, a court heard.

Robert Hammond, 47, faced a “surging mountain of debt and financial pressures” and his wife’s life insurance policy was for a £450,000 payout in the event of her death, prosecutor Christopher Paxton KC said.

The defendant dialled 999 just before 2am on October 30 last year and told the operator he had found his wife Sian face down on the bed and not breathing.

Mr Paxton, opening the prosecution case, told Cambridge Crown Court that Mrs Hammond, 46, was pronounced dead at the family home in Primes Corner, Histon, Cambridgeshire.

The barrister said that a post-mortem examination “established Sian Hammond had been strangled and sustained other injuries including to her vagina”.

Hammond denies the murder of his wife and is on trial.

Mr Paxton said Hammond, who ran a business called Hammond Mortgage Services, was in about £300,000 in debt at the time.

He said that about £200,000 of this was to Legal and General, and an agent who was pursuing this debt called him on October 30.

“He told her his wife Sian had died that morning and even though they were divorcing she was the mother of his children,” Mr Paxton said.

Sian Hammond
A post-mortem axamination established Sian Hammond was strangled (Cambridgeshire Police/PA)

The prosecutor said the defendant’s case was that they were happily married.

Mr Paxton said that Hammond spoke to the agent again on November 3 about the debt and inquired “if he was able to pay off the debt quicker, as he would be having life insurance paid to him, would Legal and General review the interest payments on the debt balance”.

“Sian Hammond had been dead barely a week and this was the defendant’s focus,” Mr Paxton said.

He said that Hammond “had eyes on the prize of Sian’s life insurance payoff”.

The prosecutor said that Hammond paid his wife’s life insurance policy, also with Legal and General, up to date on October 26.

He said the policy was to pay out £450,000 in the event of her death.

He said that on October 27, Hammond called a debt recovery agent at Legal and General telling her to “call him on that Monday, suggesting something may have changed by then”.

“We say the defendant saw Sian Hammond’s death as his way out of the crisis of debt that he was in,” said Mr Paxton.

He said: “It’s the prosecution case that this defendant, her husband, is the killer.”

General view of Cambridge Crown Court, Cambridge
Robert Hammond is on trial at Cambridge Crown Court (PA)

He continued: “Only he truly knows why he acted as he did when he took her life but you will hear that he faced a surging mountain of debt and financial pressures.

“How he told lies to fend off those seeking payment, including that he had cancer when he did not, and how in the days leading up to the killing of his wife he had paid one month’s arrears on their life insurance policies to bring them up to date.”

The prosecutor said Hammond “found himself in a pressure cooker of a situation”.

“To the outside world they were a happy married couple with two teenage children living in an affluent part of the city but the police investigation has revealed evidence that suggests the defendant faced a surging mountain of debt and financial pressures,” he said.

Mr Paxton said that the couple’s two children were away from the property that weekend and it was “just the two of them home alone”.

He said it was the prosecution case that Hammond was “a man who’s quite willing to lie when it suits his purpose”.

Mr Paxton said in the 999 call the defendant was told to perform CPR and claimed he was doing so, but a paramedic who attended “formed the view no CPR had been carried out”.

Hammond told police he had sex with his wife, showered and that he went downstairs at about midnight, while his wife remained upstairs to sleep, Mr Paxton said.

He said the defendant said he later found his wife upstairs and dialled 999.

The prosecutor said the defendant said Mrs Hammond used wax earplugs to help her sleep, but paramedics found no earplugs.

He said the defendant was wearing a wrist fitness device and there was a “spike in the defendant’s heart rate at 11.56pm on that Sunday night which remained high until 12.19am, before it stopped recording data, suggesting the wrist device had been taken off”.

Mr Paxton said this data “suggested the defendant was involved in some sustained physical activity at a time he claimed to be on the sofa watching television”.

The defendant shook his head, looked downwards and wiped tears from his eyes in the dock as part of his 999 call was played.

Mr Paxton said Hammond was “putting on an act in the 999 call”.

The trial, estimated to last about four weeks, continues.