Mother killed by 'jealous and controlling' ex-partner, court told

Bethany Minelle, News Reporter

A mother-of-three, whose body was found dumped in a suitcase last year, was killed by her "controlling and jealous" ex-partner, a court has heard.

Gergana Prodanova, 38, who had moved from Bulgaria to Exeter, Devon, in December 2015, went missing from the home she shared with former partner of 15 years, Kostadin Kostov.

Kostov - who the court heard had "used physical violence against her on a number of occasions" - had followed her to England the following year.

Describing the relationship as "complex and very troubling", the prosecution said he was "a jealous and controlling man who "would lose his temper, especially when he had had a drink, and he would hit her".

Prosecutor Simon Laws went on: "She stuck with him for many years. She seems to have found it very hard to break free from him."

However, the court heard that after leaving Kostov and their children in her native Bulgaria in 2015 and moving to the UK, she had formed a relationship with another man who treated her "kindly" and made her happy.

The prosecution claims that Ms Prodnova was killed in her flat in Mount Pleasant Road on 4 August by Kostov because he was jealous of her new relationship.

After her uncharacteristic disappearance, friends and colleagues received texts and Facebook messages, purporting to be from her, and attempting to explain away her sudden absence.

A message sent to her new partner Tihomir Todrov on the day she disappeared said she was at Bristol Airport and about to fly to Bulgaria.

However, airport records showed she had not flown from Bristol that evening.

Phone records obtained also showed one of Kostov's sim cards had been put into Ms Prodanova's mobile phone two days after her disappearance.

Two weeks after she went missing, Ms Prodanova's naked body was found stuffed into a suitcase by the railway.

Kostov denies her murder, and refused to comment on the phone sim card swap.

The court heard Kostov had told police that Ms Prodanova was alive the last time he saw her and that she had received a phone call from her sister to say her mother had died, after which she had left the flat.

The jury was also told Kostov and Ms Prodanova had been intending to give their relationship another try prior to her beginning a new relationship with Mr Todorov.

Before he moved to the UK, the prosecution also described a Skype conversation between Kostov and Ms Prodanova appeared to show Kostov threatening to take his own life.

During a row in the month following his arrival to the UK, he had become "jealous and angry", using scissors to cut up her clothes, breaking both of her phones and injuring her finger.

The trial at Exeter Crown Court continues.