Husband battered wife to death with lamp as she slept over his secret debts

A husband battered his wife to death before trying to take his own life after racking up secret debts.

Mark Wheeler murdered Karen as she slept after being told that bailiffs were coming to his flat in Birkenhead, Merseyside.

He bludgeoned his wife with a lamp and then stabbed her repeatedly “to make sure she was dead”.

Wheeler has now been jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years and 10 months, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Wheeler attacked Karen as she slept on a sofa, subjecting her to dozens of blows.

There had been “no history of domestic violence”, although Ms Wheeler reported that her husband “had begun to act in an insecure and needy way” in the months before her death.

Liverpool Crown Court heard on Friday that the couple began their relationship in 2007 before marrying seven years later.

On the morning of May 11 this year, the 62-year-old returned home from a night shift – having been employed as a carer for assisted living residents by a housing association.

She dozed off on a settee in the living room before her 52-year-old spouse began his attack as she slept.

Gordon Cole KC, prosecuting, described how she was subjected to a “sustained and very violent assault” and was repeatedly struck “with a heavy blunt object” – suffering at least 25 separate blows to her head.

Under interview following his arrest, the killer described how he first attacked her with a “heavy salt lamp with a wooden base” – an instrument which was later found covered in blood next to Ms Wheeler’s body.

She was knocked unconscious but came around again at one stage and “asked what he was doing”.

The shop worker told her he “had to” kill her and was going to take his own life, and began hitting her again with the object.

Wheeler then left the room, but upon returning believed she had moved.

As a result, he took a knife and began stabbing her “to make sure she was dead” before drinking whisky and attempting to take an overdose of tablets.

The following morning he left the address to buy beer.

But Ms Wheeler’s son David Bradley began to have growing concerns over her mum.

He had been due to meet her in late afternoon on the day of her murder and went to the property shortly after 3.15pm, receiving no response.

Messages he left with her remained unread, and he also could not get in touch with Mark Wheeler.

Mr Bradley returned to the flat at 6pm on May 12, but again did not get an answer.

He checked in with his mother’s employer, but was told that she had been on rest days.

After trying to call both parties once more “without success”, he contacted the police shortly after 7pm and went back to the apartment.

Mr Bradley was let in by the murderer, who was “covered in blood”.

Ms Wheeler was “clearly dead on the floor with substantial head injuries”, while the defendant was making comments about debts and that “the bailiffs were coming”.

When officers attended the scene and arrested him, Wheeler said “he didn’t need a solicitor as he had killed his wife”.

He later added “he had had his hours cut at work and was in debt” while their credit cards had been maxed out, but he “did not want Karen to know”.

A post-mortem investigation revealed that she had suffered fractures to the skull and facial bones, bleeding on the brain, stab wounds to the head, chest and shoulder and “defensive” injuries to her hands and arms.

Stanley Reiz KC, defending, told the court that doctors concluded his client – who has no previous convictions – had been suffering an “acute stress reaction” after a receiving phone call telling him bailiffs would be visiting at 5pm that day.

Wheeler was described in references by his friends and family as “kind, considerate and thoughtful”.

Another added the he was a “good person who has made a terrible mistake”.

Mr Reiz said: “This is a tragic but unusual case.

“The defendant was a law-abiding and hard-working man whose mental state became so fragile due to his financial difficulties that he had lost the will to live.

“What is unusual is Mr Wheeler, desperate and irrational, concluded his wife’s life should be ended as well. There is no evidence of previous difficulties within their marriage.

“The evidence tends to suggest they were happily married and loved each other very much.”

Wheeler admitted murder during an earlier hearing in August. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years and 10 months and told to pay a victim surcharge.