Man who murdered wife then staged hanging to make it looked like she killed herself is jailed for life

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Derek Potter has been jailed for life for throttling his wife to death (Wales News Service)

A man who throttled his wife to death before claiming she had hung herself has been jailed for life for her murder.

Carpenter Derek Potter, 64, covered up his throttling of wife Lesley, 66, by cruelly pretending to their family that she killed herself in a bedroom at their home in Mumbles, Swansea, South Wales.

Blundering police officers failed to spot anything suspicious about grandmother Mrs Potters’ faked suicide – as Potter pretended to grieve for his loss.

Her body was released to a funeral director for Potter to plan the funeral believing he had covered up his marital murder of his fourth wife.

However, three weeks later Potter boasted about the killing to a woman in his local pub The George – just one week before Mrs Potter’s body was due to be cremated – and the evidence destroyed.

He told fellow builder Natalia Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia, 32, what he had done before asking her to move in with him.

Potter covered up his throttling of wife Lesley by pretending to their family that she hanged herself in a bedroom at their home (Wales News Service)

Natalia said: ‘We were still on our first pints when he said: ‘I have got to tell you something’.

‘He said: ‘I love my wife very much but she was doing my head in so I strangled her’.’

Miss Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia – who is friends with Potter’s daughter Nicole – was left ‘shocked’ and thought he was ‘joking’.

She added: ‘He was saying it with a straight face – no tears in his eyes, no laughter. I thought: ‘Oh my God, he’s done it’.’

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Swansea Crown Court heard the death was reinvestigated after she tipped off police – and her body was taken from a chapel of rest for a full post mortem.

Prosecutor Elwen Evans QC said: ‘As a direct result of her report of the confession, police started a full investigation of the death.

“Mr Potter killed his wife by strangling her, using his hands.

‘He then tried to cover up what he had done by pretending she had suspended herself with a ligature. He almost got away with that pretence.’

Potter told fellow builder Natalia Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia what he had done before asking her to move in with him (Wales News Service)

Mrs Potter – wed for 26 years – was naked when she was found hanged at her home on April 7.

But Potter claimed she was suicidal and hanged herself when he popped out for 15 minutes to run an errand.

A post mortem examination revealed Mrs Potter had a number of injuries including internal injuries, bruising and ‘other marks’ on her body.

Mrs Potter had suffered 30 rib fractures as well as internal bruising in addition to more than 30 bruises over her neck, face, arms, back, legs and feet.

Pathologists could also determine a difference in signs of ‘manual strangulation’ and hanging.

Potter boasted about the killing to Miss Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia in his local pub The George (Wales News Service)

Lying Potter claimed Miss Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia misunderstood what he said when he spoke of strangling his wife.

He denied to police that she died during a sex game, instead telling them: ‘This was suicide.’

Potter, Of Mumbles, Swansea, denied murder but a jury took just one hour and 11 minutes to find him guilty.

In a victim impact statement, the Potters’ daughter Nicole said she was four months pregnant at the time of her mum’s death.

Nicole said: ‘I feel so numb, I find it very hard to cry.

Miss Mikhailoea-Kisselevskaia – who is friends with Potter’s daughter Nicole – was left ‘shocked’ and thought he was ‘joking’ (Wales News Service)

‘I was four months pregnant at the time of her death. At first I was very sad and angry at my mum thinking that she had left me.

‘I initially grieved for my mum for three weeks thinking she had killed herself but knowing that something wasn’t right.’

Jailing him for life with a minmum of 17 years, Mr Justice Michael Soole called Potter’s staged hanging of his wife a ‘shameful and despicable charade’ which exposed his wife’s body to ‘terrible indignity and dishonour’.

The judge accepted it was not premeditated but due to Potter’s ‘sudden and terrible fury’.

Mr Justice Soole said: ‘It was a ferocious attack. I’m sure than in the moment he strangled your wife that you intended to kill her. You knew what you were doing.’