‘Vile monster’ husband jailed for estranged wife’s shotgun murder over divorce

Richard Vernalls, PA
·4-min read

A “controlling” and “abusive” husband who murdered his estranged wife with a shotgun after being ordered to pay a £10,000 divorce bill has been jailed for life.

“Bitter and resentful” Michael Reader, who is 70, was told by a judge he must serve a minimum of 31 years in prison following his conviction after trial for the murder of Marion Price in a drive-by shooting just before Christmas last year.

Sentencing Reader at Northampton Crown Court on Monday, Judge Adrienne Lucking QC described Reader’s crime as a “cold-blooded execution”, while the 63-year-old victim’s son described him as a “vile monster”.

The judge also warned Reader, of Booth Rise, Northampton, that, given his age, and the seriousness of his crime, she could not guarantee he would not die in jail.

Marion Price
Marion Price had tried to escape her husband Michael Reader (Northamptonshire Police/PA)

Judge Lucking told remorseless Reader his sentence reflected how he killed as “an act of revenge, for the financial consequences of the divorce and punishment for the fact that Marion had moved on with her life after an abusive marriage”.

To reduce his minimum prison term any further, in light of his advanced years “would undermine the deterrent aspect of the sentence”, she told him.

Also convicted of murder after trial earlier this month; Reader’s best friend Stephen Welch, who was a “willing assistant”, the judge said.

Welch, 61, of Addlecroft Close, Northampton, was given life with a minimum term of 27 years.

Before meeting Reader on the internet in 2012, Ms Price had been a happy person who enjoyed time with friends and family, the court heard.

But “within a month” of marrying that same year, she confided in a work colleague she had “made a mistake”, the judge had said.

In a victim personal statement read by prosecutor Mary Loram QC ahead of sentencing, Ms Price’s son Gary Price described his mother as “the most amazing, kind, bubbly, excitable, beautiful human being”, “always laughing, singing and dancing around the house, so full of joy”.

He added it was “desperately unfortunate” that while seeking a new life, she had met “vile monster” Reader, who “preyed on her good nature”.

"Willing" accomplice Stephen Welch
‘Willing’ accomplice Stephen Welch (Northamptonshire Police/PA)

“We would find out he was obsessed with money, manipulating, controlling, disgusting, and very sad,” he said.

“I really hope that people will read or hear about my mum’s story and help at least one other person to spot the signs they are in an abusive relationship.

“Domestic abuse is never just obvious physical abuse, these psychopaths get into your mind and intimidate and frighten you until you do as they say.

“My mother was a strong woman and she stood up for herself – unfortunately this is what led to her murder.”

Judge Lucking told Reader: “You were controlling and obsessed with money.”

“In private, you ridiculed and undermined her,” she added.

In 2017, Reader left Ms Price stranded in London because she had “embarrassed him” by daring to get up and dance at a Jersey Boys musical, alongside the rest of the West End audience, the trial had heard.

Ms Price became depressed and lost confidence, eventually moving to live with her elderly mother in 2016.

The judge said: “You were bitter and resentful, in particular over money spent during the marriage.”

When Ms Price told Reader she would no longer pay bills on the matrimonial home, he went to the home of his estranged wife’s partially-sighted and deaf 90-year-old mother and launched a frightening attack on his spouse, breaking her fingers.

Ms Price was so badly shaken she left her job, issued divorce proceedings, leaving Reader “incensed”, the judge said.

“You were jealous of her social life and became obsessed with her movements,” added Judge Lucking.

Reader got a tracker off the internet in November 2018 and with Welch’s help, set-up and fitted the device to her car, then making trips under cover of darkness to replace the bug’s battery.

On December 15 last year, having plotted an escape route with Welch avoiding CCTV cameras, and sourcing a motorcycle and a shotgun, Reader ambushed his estranged wife in the car park of her home.

“I am certain she saw her killer at the last moment because just before she was shot, her hand was raised to protect her head,” said the judge.

“You shot Marion Price through the window of her car – out of jealously and as a cold-blooded act of revenge for the financial costs of the divorce.”

Neither the motorcycle Reader rode to and from the murder scene in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, or the shotgun have ever been recovered.