Gordon Wardell turned murder into a cruel game. He even brought a clown in to play a part. The stakes were high – at least a £14,000 heist, plus £100,000 in insurance payouts on the life of his wife Carol, who was his victim.

Six-foot-three Wardell, 42, loved games. He paid £50 a time to prostitutes to tie him up. Since he spent a lot of his time out of work, Carol, manager of the Woolwich Building Society in Nuneaton, was his unwitting paymaster.

He hadn’t slept with her for six months, and she had got to hear of his nocturnal red-light district frolics. So when he got sacked yet again he figured the easiest way to avoid another tiresome confrontation was to kill her.

Carol’s partly clothed body was found in a lay-by 12 miles from Nuneaton on SEPTEMBER 12th, 1994. She had been asphyxiated. Her left sandal was lying nearby. The right sandal was discovered 75 minutes later when staff arrived at the Woolwich and found the place ransacked. The £14,000-plus was missing from the safe, and so were about 40 cheques which had no spending limit.

The police at first supposed, as Wardell expected them to, that Carol had been kidnapped and forced to help rob the office by disabling the alarm. The computer showed that she had entered the building at 5.22 a.m., tapping in her personal code. Her own keys were used to open the safe. But where was her husband? Police raced to the Wardells’ home at Bonneville Close, Meriden, and found him dressed only in his underpants, gagged, and bound to a chair.

He seemed badly shocked, but he was able to say that the previous evening he came home to find a man wearing a clown’s mask holding a knife to his wife’s throat. Two other men grabbed him and used a chemical to render him unconscious for what he thought was about 10 hours.

All this was soon proved to be nonsense. Carol had a special distress code to enter the office which she would have used if she had been a hostage. There is no chemical applied in the way that Wardell described that could have rendered him unconscious for such a long time.

His ligatures were not tightly tied and the bruises on his body “inflicted by the gang” were superficial. And forensic evidence showed that Carol was killed long before her office was burgled.

Despite the interesting fact that a clown’s mask was conveniently found by the roadside near the Wardell home, Wardell was arrested for murder. Police already knew him well. When he was 17 he got four years for almost killing a young mother for the purpose of rape. A psychologist described him as a sexual psychopath who could well have committed other murders.

On December 20th, 1995, Wardell was sentenced to life. He was, said the judge, “an extremely dangerous, evil and devious man.”