You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.
**Support for today’s episode of Evidence Locker comes from June’s Journey and Freetrade.
Download hidden-object mystery game, June’s Journey and transport yourself right into the middle of a 1920s murder mystery.
Also download the award-winning commission-free investing app FreeTrade. Go to freetrade.io/evidencelocker and start investing with as little as £2 today.
You can find links to all our sponsors on our website.
Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
Peter Wallner had taken the long trip from England to South Africa with his wife’s ashes, so she could be laid to rest on her family’s farm. German-born Peter met Melanie at work in London and they had been married for five years.
Melanie’s sister, an ordained minister, led a memorial service in Pretoria’s inner-city and family members spoke about Melanie’s life in South Africa, before she moved to the UK. 30-year-old Melanie had migrated to England ten years before her untimely death. Friends and relatives did not really know her life as a married woman. Still, many people attended the service to support the grieving family and pay their respects to Melanie.
At the ceremony, Melanie’s husband, Peter, a tall man with sandy hair, was without emotion. He was slightly awkward and did not engage much in conversation. No one thought too much of it, perhaps he was still in shock. Melanie had died unexpectedly due to natural causes. He must have been heartbroken – a young widower who had lost everything at the young age of 31. It must have been overwhelming to be in a foreign country, surrounded by strangers, mourning your wife’s passing.
After the memorial service, the family took Melanie’s ashes to their farm, where they chose a special spot for her final resting place. In a touching gesture, Peter took off his wedding ring, opened the urn and placed it inside. This was his way to be with Melanie forever. He said:
“I never believed in heaven, but now I know I had heaven on earth with Melanie.”
Melanie’s family was distraught and struggled to get to terms with losing her at such a young age. They were hoping to be grandparents or to travel to London to visit her in her marital home… So many unfulfilled dreams lingered as the African sun set over the plot where the blue and white urn containing her ashes was buried.
Peter Wallner was an only child who grew up in a small Bavarian village, in Germany’s south. After high school, he trained to become a chef at the esteemed Four Seasons Hotel in Munich. Once qualified, he joined the German army where he worked as a paramedic for three years before returning to his career as a chef.
Peter loved the high pressure, creatively buzzing environment of a ritzy kitchen and excelled at his job. He worked at a hotel in Munich for two years before relocating to England in 2000. Before long, the dynamic German chef had earned a reputation as a highly efficient worker who performed well under pressure, without ever showing much emotion.
Soon after arriving in the UK, Peter met a 24-year-old woman called Melanie van der Merwe. They worked together at the Marriot Regents Park in North West London.
Melanie was born in South Africa’s capital city of Pretoria. After graduating from high school, she took a couple of odd jobs to save money so she could go to live and work in the UK. She moved to London in 1996 and quickly landed a waitressing job. Melanie was strong-willed and outgoing and knew how to take charge of any situation. Before long, she had worked her way up through the ranks of the hospitality industry. It was no surprise when she was offered a job as a food and beverage manager.
People who knew Melanie liked her. Her dad, Petrus, described her as being ‘bubbly, delightful, happy and spontaneous – [she had] a personality full of laughter‘.
Melanie and Peter tied the knot after knowing each other for about a year in 2001. The couple’s first home was in the trendy urban neighbourhood of Hammersmith. Both were rising stars in their careers: Melanie worked in the catering department of the House of Commons, and Peter was a highly-regarded chef, seen as a rising celebrity. From the outside in, the Wallners had the brightest of futures ahead of them.
~ We’ll take a quick break for a word from one of our sponsors~
June’s Journey is a hidden-object game set in a sprawling upstate New York mansion, in the roaring twenties. The objective is to solve an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery by finding hidden objects and clues in one beautifully crafted scene after the other.
Decorating the estate at Orchid Island, gives you credit so you can advance through the levels. Playing June’s Journey is a total escape into the vintage world where you’d expect to meet Miss Marple or Hercules Poirot. It is super relaxing to play and satisfying to find clues to help you solve the case. Well, to help June Parker solve the case.
The story begins with June Parker arrives home after the deaths of her sister and brother-and-law. They have been found shot dead in their home. Police have ruled it a murder-suicide, concluding that, after a couple of drinks, they got into an argument after which Harry shot Clare, then pulled the revolver on himself.
I’ve progressed through the case and have solved it together with June. Now we’re back at Orchid Island, but all is not well with June’s niece Virginia. She has not been showing up to school and her grades are slipping. Luckily the handsome Cuban, Julian Reyes is in town to help June cope with it all.
To join more than 3 Million murder mystery enthusiasts and puzzle solvers around the world, download June’s Journey for free from the App Store or Google Play, by clicking the link in the show notes.
~ Now, back to today’s episode ~
Melanie and Peter were navigating their way through their first years of marriage, with a couple of hiccups. Melanie’s parents claimed that she was somewhat naïve when it came to romance; they even wondered if she had slept with anyone before she met her German beau. Still, they never felt that her relationship with Peter was a great love story. On the contrary, her visa to remain in Britain was running out when they got married, but being married to a European national would have enabled her to stay longer. Her friends and family back home in South Africa assumed that Melanie married Peter for practical reasons.
However, they did not know them as a couple together. Melanie found herself rather smitten with her new husband. She expressed her feelings in her diary:
“I would never have thought I would have said it, but I am incredibly in love with my husband.”
Sadly, the feeling did not seem to be mutual, and theirs was not a happy marriage. Melanie often complained to her mother, Jeanne, in South Africa that Peter was very rigid and precise. He expected her to stick to a schedule and keep house the way he wanted it. It became petty at times, with Peter complaining that her spending money on items like shampoo was unnecessary. Melanie was not the kind of person to take her husband’s attempts to dominate her lightly, but whenever she wanted to talk to him about their situation, he refused. Melanie grew increasingly frustrated. She was in love with Peter and desperately wanted to make things work. She looked at ways to improve their marriage by bettering herself. To make up for her experience in the bedroom, she bought books to learn more about being a desirable lover.
After being married for a couple of years, Peter and Melanie decided it was time to move out of the city. They liked Surrey, and Peter took a job at the Woodland Park Hotel. Soon Melanie also started working as the food and beverage manager at the same hotel. The couple rented a house on Hamilton Avenue in Cobham, not far from work, and they seemed content with the new chapter in their lives.
But beneath the surface, something was brewing. Before Melanie joined Peter at the Woodland Park Hotel, he met an exchange student who waitressed at the hotel called Lilia Fenech. He was infatuated with the young brunette, and before long, Melanie uncovered the affair. She was heartbroken but said she was willing to work on their marriage if Peter promised to end things with Lilia. She also insisted they went to counselling together.
Melanie left the Woodlands Park Hotel, as it was clear that working together was also putting a strain on their already-fragile marriage. She found a job in the city, at the Thistle Hotel, Kensington Gardens.
Peter’s young lover, Lilia, returned to Malta and Melanie was hopeful that she would get her husband back. She was motivated to restore their marriage, to save what was left. Although they slept in separate bedrooms at times, she was optimistic things would work out. This excerpt comes from her diary:
“I’m going to fight for this marriage with every bone in my body. I’m not willing to give up. I have enough hope for us both.”
Despite agreeing to work on their marriage, Peter was not as committed as Melanie. On the contrary; he had replaced his former mistress with a new one. Emma Harrison worked at Woodlands Park as a wedding planner, and the hot couple was not discreet at all. Their affair was common knowledge to all their colleagues at the hotel.
In August 2006, Peter and Melanie attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland together. They camped out and went to a variety of shows and exhibitions and enjoyed the vibe of the biggest arts festival in the world. Their trip filled Melanie with hope, once more, that all was not over between her and her husband.
The couple returned home on Sunday evening, the 27th of August. All up, it had been a good week for Melanie. Something she’d been waiting for, for a long time, finally came through. She sent her mom a text message telling her the good news: she had finally been granted British citizenship. Melanie’s mother was pleased, as she knew how much it meant to her daughter.
Then, before they could celebrate, tragedy struck. The next news Melanie’s parents had from England came from Peter, on the 1st of September 2006. He called his in-laws in South Africa with devastating news. He said that he woke up in the middle of the night after hearing a loud crash. He called for Melanie, but she didn’t answer back, so he went downstairs to see what was going on. That is when he found her lying on the floor, unconscious. He tried to revive her by performing CPR, but it didn’t work. According to Peter, Melanie died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
By this time, Melanie’s parents were no longer married, and both had remarried. However, there was solidarity in the grief and shock of their daughter’s death. Her mother, Jeanne, asked Peter if he needed them to come to the UK, and he said yes. But he insisted they didn’t go to the morgue to see her one last time. He explained that paramedics were quite rough and hard-handed when they collected loaded Melanie into the ambulance and that her face was ‘black and bruised’. Peter convinced them to remember Melanie the way she was when she was still alive.
When Melanie’s parents arrived in the UK, their son-in-law seemed distant and cold. Jeanne later recalled how little emotion Peter showed. She said:
“Peter was acting as if it was happening didn’t happen to him; it was as if he was a spectator.
They felt sorry for him and didn’t push for more information. Perhaps he needed space, as everyone grieves in their own way. When her parents mentioned going to the coroner to see Melanie’s body, Peter stopped them. Again he insisted that he didn’t want them to see her like ‘that’. While Jeanne and Petrus were staying with Peter, he told them that he had received a call from the coroner, and reported the cause of Melanie’s death: she had suffered an aneurysm.
It was a tragic story, but they had to accept the fact that their daughter was no longer alive. Melanie was usually the doer in the relationship, and Peter, the follower. However, in the aftermath of her death, he kicked into action. He arranged a memorial service for his wife with a sober mind and a businesslike approach. The Thistle Hotel where Melanie had worked for a short while before her death provided a function room for the memorial service. Peter decorated the function room with white lilies, Melanie’s favourite. Peter printed a poem on the funeral flyer, one he wrote especially for her. About 50 people attended the service and expressed their shock and disbelief of Melanie’s sudden death. Peter gave a eulogy, keeping his composure while singing his wife’s praises.
When Melanie’s parents requested that she would be laid to rest in her native country, South Africa, Peter had no objections. Jeanne and Petrus returned home to make arrangements and Peter followed, travelling with Melanie’s ashes. When Jeanne was in the UK, Peter had asked her to choose an urn and suggested she chose something blue, as it was Melanie’s favourite colour.
The memorial service in South Africa was well-attended. It was melancholic, and there was an element of sadness that Melanie had been away for so long – and knowing she would never return. Funeral guests found Peter’s behaviour a bit strange, but could not quite say why. They put it down to cultural differences and assumed the magnitude of the situation was suffocating him.
When Melanie was laid to rest, and all affairs had been taken care of, Peter returned to England where he revived his relationship with Emma Harrison. He told Emma before Melanie’s death that they had separated and she had moved to London. But when she passed away, he had to take some time to do the decent thing and help her parents to wrap up her life. Peter never mentioned his new girlfriend to Melanie’s family; in fact, he made them all believe that he was still grieving the loss of his wife. He wrote a letter to Melanie’s brother saying how angry he was that she was no longer alive.
~ We’ll take a quick break for a word from one of our sponsors ~
Investing app Freetrade has been the winner of the British Bank Awards, 2 years in a row, 2019 and 2020 for best online trading platform – and here’s why…
The folks at Freetrade are on a mission to change traditional stock investment, by breaking down barriers like high commissions and confusing products. With Freetrade, you won’t have to pay any commission on your investments. Join more than 250,000 people who are already using FreeTrade’s slickly designed app and choose from a wide range of investments, covering different sectors and markets worldwide.
When it comes to money matters, you can never be too careful. FreeTrade does not offer speculative products, and they don’t do day trading. It’s all about long-term investing with a transparent pricing model.
Whether you’re just starting out, or if you have some experience, Freetrade is bound to have an option that is right for you. Whether it’s a General Investment Account or Stocks and Shares ISA – they’ve got you covered. For more advanced options, with Freetrade Plus you have access to an ever bigger stock universe.
Go to freetrade.io/EVIDENCELOCKER and if you register and fund your account, you will get a randomly allocated free share, worth between £3 and £200, such as Greggs, Rightmove or Apple.
When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of investments can go up as well as down and you may receive back less than your original investment
~ Now, back to today’s episode ~
The grieving widower accepted his wife’s last paycheck after presenting her employers with a death certificate. Yet, when Melanie’s parents asked for a copy of the death certificate, Peter always had an excuse of why he couldn’t send it to them. They were all mourning the loss of the bubbly and vibrant Melanie, so when the death certificate wasn’t forthcoming, they didn’t push for it. When some time had passed Melanie’s mum approached Peter once more asking for a copy. In 2007 Peter said that he would bring a copy of the death certificate on a planned visit to South Africa. However, he cancelled the trip at the last minute, and let his former in-laws know that his father in Germany had had a heart attack.
In 2008 Melanie’s stepdad went to the UK and arranged to meet Peter at the airport so he could give him the death certificate. This time Peter didn’t show up. Tragedy had struck once more; this time, his mother had suffered a stroke. Melanie’s family felt nothing but sympathy for their daughter’s widower. Jeanne recalled her thoughts at the time:
“I felt terrible for this man: he lost his wife, then his father was ill, then his mother died.”
Peter’s girlfriend, Emma, was the first one to grow suspicious of Peter when she saw the lengths he took to avoid Melanie’s parents. She felt he was lying about his sick parents, and without asking too many questions decided it was probably better to end the relationship. Peter moved on pretty quickly and head a succession of relationships, all the while keeping in constant contact with the former exchange student-slash-waitress from the Woodlands Park Hotel, Lilia Fenech in Malta.
In March 2007, Peter started a relationship with Rebecca Jackson. Rebecca later told the Daily Mail that Peter used the story of Melanie’s death to gain sympathy. When they met, he said to her that he had been married to his wife for six years when she tragically passed away. After he kissed Rebecca for the first time, he asked her if they could take things slow, because he was still getting over losing his wife. Rebecca respected his wishes and was happy not to see him every day, she realised he needed space.
When she fell pregnant, it was a surprise to both of them, but they decided that she would move into his house on Hamilton Avenue, and they would raise their baby daughter together. But when Rebecca was ready to move in, Peter called and said that he was in Germany as his dad had passed away from a heart attack. Rebecca tried to support him, but he stopped taking her calls. She eventually got a hold of him, and they resumed their relationship. Rebecca felt that he was a broken man, crippled by grief. After a couple of months, when Rebecca was about to move in with Peter in Cobham, he informed her that he had to go back to Germany, because his mother had had a stroke.
However, none of this was true. Both of Peter’s parents were alive and well, still living in Bavaria, unaware of the stories their son was telling about them.
Peter wasn’t around when his daughter was born and saw her only a couple of times. When the baby was only six weeks old, Peter told Rebecca he did not want to have anything to do with her or their child. Rebecca learnt from Peter’s neighbour that he had been seeing another woman, police dog trainer, Claire Trickett.
Peter was spiralling out of control, which eventually caused him to be fired from his job at Woodlands Park in October 2008. Around the same time, Melanie’s mom received notice about an outstanding parking ticket, issued to Melanie. Jeannie was furious: Melanie had been gone for two years, and Peter never changed the registration on her car. She called him from South Africa and told him that it was time to hand over the death certificate, so she could deal with the outstanding ticket – and everything else that had not been tied up. When Peter dodged her request yet again, Jeanne decided to ask a UK-based friend for help. What they found out was rather unsettling. No hospital, Medical Center or mortuary in the Cobham area had any record of Melanie Wallner’s death.
Jeanne tried to reach Peter to confront him, but by Christmas 2008, he stopped answering her calls. By this time, 23-year-old Lilia Fenech had returned to England to be with Peter. She moved into his home on Hamilton Avenue, and the couple were planning their future together. Lilia settled into the house and tried to make it hers. Strangely, Peter never allowed her to go into the garden shed. He always said:
“It’s just an old freezer in there, nothing else.”
Lilia didn’t think much of it at the time. Peter was a chef, so the kitchen and everything that went with it – like fridges and freezers – was his territory.
Unable to pay the rent and not to take care of the property, his landlord asked the out-of-work chef and his girlfriend to move out. Peter and Lilia decided to move to her home country of Malta together. As a chef, he was confident that he would find work quickly, and Lilia would be able to live close to her family.
They rented a van and set off to drive across mainland Europe and then take the ferry across the Mediterranean to Malta.
After their departure, landlord, Roy Crabbe, visited the property on Hamilton Avenue to prepare it for a new tenant. On Saturday the 6th of June, Roy made a grisly discovery. He noticed that the wheelie bin had not been collected. It was still on the sidewalk, full of trash. He opened up the lid to have a look inside. To his horror, he saw a human foot protruding from the garbage. The landlord removed the top layer of trash and saw the rest of Melanie’s decomposing body and contacted police.
Surrey Police launched a murder investigation named Operation Nepal on the very same day. The body was so badly decomposed that they could only identify her using dental records. It didn’t take long for suspicion to fall on her husband, who had recently left the county. An international alert was put out to apprehend Peter Wallner.
Peter was at Lilia’s parent’s home in Malta when he saw a news report about the discovery of Melanie’s body on satellite TV. By this time he had been away from the UK for three weeks. The game was up, and he was a wanted man.
Peter had no other choice but to return to the UK and face up to what he had done. Lilia travelled with him, and police waited for them when they arrived back in the UK at Gatwick Airport. Both Peter and Lilia were taken into custody.
Police questioned Lilia at length about her role in Melanie’s murder. She told the Malta Times before they left the island that they were going back to England to assist police with information. She said:
“We are not involved in any way in this.”
With no evidence linking Lilia to the murder, she was released on bail. With no charges brought against her, bail was dropped, and she returned to Malta. Maltese newspapers claimed that Peter and Lilia got married at the end of 2008, around the time he fell out of contact with Melanie’s parents.
Surrey Police were eager to hear what Peter Wallner had to say about his wife’s death. From the start, he insisted that he never meant to kill Melanie, that it was an accident. They had a violent argument, and he was only trying to defend himself. However, when asked about some aspects of the crime, Peter insisted that he couldn’t remember. During his police interview, he kept on saying that it was four years ago and he couldn’t remember what he did exactly. Police pressured him, and he coldly went on to say:
“I’m not going to say something just to fit in the picture. I can’t remember. It would be easy for me to say ‘yes’, but I can’t remember.”
Even though Peter wasn’t talking, the evidence spoke volumes. His version of events simply didn’t add up.
Police were able to piece together what took place at the Wallner home on Hamilton Avenue. It was the night they returned from their camping trip in Scotland. As they were unpacking the car, Melanie discovered a suggestive email conversation between Peter and Lilia. She was furious and confronted him about it. Regardless of how the argument ended, Melanie went to bed in the upstairs bedroom.
While Melanie was asleep, Peter snuck into the bedroom with a Le Creuset iron-cast griddle pan and battered her to death. He hit her three times in the face. To prevent her blood from dripping on the floor, Peter then wrapped her head in a plastic Tesco shopping bag, before taking her body to the bathroom where he placed her in the bathtub and washed her.
Peter then slid her wedding ring off her hand, the ring that had his name and their wedding date engraved inside. Then he went to the car where he retrieved Melanie’s sleeping bag, the one she had used on the camping trip to Scotland. He placed her body inside, and once she was tucked in, he rolled her up in a groundsheet. He put his wife’s body in a carrier bag before dragging her to the shed in their backyard.
Without breaking a sweat, Peter went back into the house and cleaned it thoroughly. He washed the blood-soaked mattress and used fabric dye on parts where the stains were too stubborn.
All of this occurred on the night before his 31st birthday. He chose to celebrate the occasion with his girlfriend, Emma Harrison, at an Italian restaurant. He told Emma that his wife had left him and moved to London. Their separation was official, and he was, therefore, free to pursue their relationship. After having a delectable dinner with champagne, the lovers went back to his place and made love on the very same bed where Peter killed Melanie the night before.
Emma had never been to the Wallner home before; this was her first time. In less than 24 hours after her death, Peter had moved all of Melanie’s belongings into a spare room; it was only the décor in the bedroom that hinted at the fact that someone other than Peter had lived there.
The following day, Peter went to a homewares store, Argos, to purchase a chest freezer. It was delivered to the Wallner home by the end of the week and Peter installed it in the shed where Melanie’s body laid waiting. The freezer was to become her icy tomb for the next three years.
None of Melanie’s family members or friends would ever have thought that her husband had murdered her. Yes, he displayed strange behaviour, but there was no way. Surely not? Peter knew he had to cover his tracks. He sent a text message to Jeanne, from Melanie’s phone, sharing the news that she had been granted British citizenship. He also used his wife’s credit card after her death, buying himself more than time.
In the end, Peter racked up close to 7000 pounds in debt on Melanie’s Marks and Spencer’s credit card. He forged Melanie’s signature in a letter explaining that she had undergone throat surgery and needed him to make purchases on her behalf.
Once Melanie’s body was safely locked into the chest freezer, he informed her family and friends about her death. No one had any reason to question his version of events. Peter claimed that Melanie had died due to cerebral aneurysm, or a blood clot on the brain. According to the NHS’s website, the number of aneurysms in England is 1 in 12,500 each year, with instances being more common in women than in men. As far as a made-up cause of death goes – it’s pretty safe. Death is unforeseen and sudden and about 15% of patients suffering an aneurysm die before they reach the hospital. Peter’s story was plausible.
After killing his wife, Peter told people that Melanie had left him and moved back to the city. The next they heard was that she had suffered an aneurysm. It all sounded like an unspeakable tragedy, and no one pushed Peter for details.
The widower appeared to be distraught and spoke at both memorial services in London and Pretoria. And the poem he wrote that was printed on the funeral flyer seemed heartfelt. However, in hindsight, it almost reads like a macabre confession. Here is what it said:
You brought me to trust you brought me to tears
In one tender touch, the pain disappears
I have been to the sword and seen it come, seen it die
As we enter the dark I beseech you to try in prophecy, all good things must end
So take care my love, my friend
This yielding is fine, this promise rare
One day at a time we’ve agreed to dare
Holding you tight with wide open arms
I’m letting you go, no stranger to harm
Go on, ride your way, do not break or bend
Just take care my love, my friend
The memorial service in Pretoria was on the insistence of Melanie’s parents. Peter took the blue and white urn Jeannie had chosen and filled it from ashes he scraped off of his barbeque. While he travelled to South Africa to lay her remains to rest, Melanie’s body was still in the chest freezer in his garden shed, undisturbed.
By spring of 2009, Peter was ready to leave the past behind him, and move to Malta with Lilia. Perhaps he was a bit too eager. And that was to be his undoing. He came up with the idea of disposing of Melanie’s body using the council’s weekly refuse removal service. He rolled the household wheelie bin into the garden shed and closed the door behind him. Making sure no one could see inside, he transferred Melanie’s body from the chest freezer into the bin and jammed it inside. He then covered it with some household trash, in a clumsy attempt to disguise the fact that there was a human body inside. Like any good citizen, he rolled the bin to the kerb in front of the house, ready for collection.
A typical bin lorry in the UK is fitted with a hydraulic arm that picks up the bins from the kerb and throws its contents into the skip. Once the skip is full, the driver offloads the contents at a central rubbish tip. Peter had hoped no one would notice his wife’s body, as emptying the bin does not require any human contact.
With Melanie’s body awaiting collection, Peter sold the chest freezer to a neighbour for £25. On the 15th of May, he bundled his girlfriend, Lilia, some belongings and three dogs into a rented white VW Crafter van. They left the UK and set off to drive across Europe, heading for Malta. At this point, he was driving into the sunset at the end of his English chapter. Peter Wallner was confident that he got away with murder.
However, when the bin truck came by Hamilton Avenue, the bin outside the home that was once Melanie and Peter’s was too heavy to lift. Truck drivers know the best way to deal with a heavy bin: leave it unemptied. The owners get the message, and by the next week, a lighter bin waits out.
However, the owner was long gone, and the new tenants had not yet moved in. The wheelie bin stood out on the sidewalk for almost three weeks, with no one realising what was inside.
After his arrest at Gatwick Airport, Peter was kept in remand until his trial began in June 2010. The 35-year-old Mr Wallner was charged with the murder of his wife at the Old Bailey in London. He pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter.
Peter stuck to his story that Melanie attacked him with a rolling pin during an argument when she discovered he was cheating on her. According to Peter, he ran upstairs to get away from her. Then she followed him, holding a griddle pan and aimed to hit him. He realised that it would cause a serious injury, so he reacted instinctually. Here is what happened next, in Peter’s own words:
“The next thing I know, in a split second, I can remember grabbing for it, getting it off her and hitting her back in the middle of the face. She fell backwards and lay still on the mattress. There was lots of blood. I really don’t know how long I stayed there for. There was no pulse. I believed she was dead. I remember running up and down the house pretty aimlessly. For a while I lost the plot. I can’t possibly put into words what went on. I have been thinking about these five minutes for the last five years and I can’t work it out.”
This story could possibly have been believable, if only Peter had taken care of one telling piece of evidence. When he rolled her dead body up in the groundsheet, he forgot to take off her sleeping mask. This proved to investigators that Melanie was asleep in her bed when her husband attacked her. This was a crucial oversight that broke his defence. The fact that he took the time to take off her wedding ring, but forgot the mask was astounding. Peter back-pedalled and said it was perhaps he who had placed the sleeping mask on Melanie’s face after she had died – as a sign of respect because he couldn’t bear to face her. No one fell for it.
Prosecutor Bobby Cheema laid out Peter Wallner’s motive for killing his wife:
“At the core of this case is the brutality and ruthlessness of this killing. This was a senseless killing, motivated by the greed of this man to make way for a different woman in his life.”
Crown Prosecution told the jury what happened after Melanie’s death: the callous way in which he kept her body in a freezer, while her parents came from South Africa, stayed in their home and supported him. Melanie’s father, Petrus van der Merwe, made an impact statement at the trial. He struggled to come to terms with his daughter’s death and the fact that the man she trusted and loved, her very own husband threw her out like trash. It was unforgivable. He recalled the time staying at his daughter’s house in Surrey after her death. He said:
“It haunts me every day to think that while I was staying in Melanie’s house after her supposed passing in September 2006, she was right there in a freezer outside the house without my knowledge. That thought eats away at my soul every day of my life Peter Wallner thought it good to gruesomely murder her in the most unthinkable manner and put her lifeless body in a sleeping bag and freeze her in her own property for three years. After that, he threw her away like trash like rubbish in a wheelie bin.”
On 4 June 2010, four years after brutally killing his wife, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Peter Wallner and was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 20 years. Judge Stephen Kramer QC had the final word:
“Over nearly three years you were engaged in a course of conduct in which, amongst other things, you bought a freezer for the purpose of hiding the body. By your actions and deceptions and total breach of trust in your self-centred desire to escape responsibility for what you did, you have devastated Melanie’s family. I am quite satisfied you are a calculating and deceitful both from the sequence of events on the day of the murder right up until the trial. What you did over those many months was indeed appalling.”
As he was led out of the courtroom, Peter Wallner showed no remorse. The court concluded that he carried out the entire crime, the aftermath and the trial with German precision; there was no emotion when it came to Peter.
The mother of Peter’s daughter, Rebecca Jackson, said she attended his trial because she was in shock to learn that the father of her child was not only a liar and a philanderer but also a cold-blooded killer. At the trial, she met Lilia and discovered that Peter had been seeing her all along. Lilia also told Rebecca that Peter’s parents were alive and well and gave her their address in Germany so that she could inform them about their grandchild. Rebecca sent photos of her daughter, and Peter’s parents were very grateful.
Melanie’s mother, Jeanne, made this statement outside of the Old Bailey in London:
“A prison sentence will never bring Melanie back. And in actual fact, robs another mother and father of their child. To Peter’s mother: as a mother myself my thoughts and prayers are with you.”
One can wonder if the cold-hearted Peter was able to lie to everyone he knew and everyone who loved Melanie about her murder – why did he simply leave her body in a wheelie bin on the sidewalk? Peter had gone to tremendous lengths to conceal his crime. Was he that confident and callous that he simply left her body out, thinking he would get away with it? In the end, his lack of care made him sloppy. There was never any doubt as to who killed Melanie after she was discovered. It was the man who had promised to love and cherish her, till death parted them.
We’d like to thank today’s sponsors, June’s Journey AND FreeTrade.
- To join more than 3 Million murder mystery enthusiasts and puzzle solvers around the globe, download June’s Journey for free from the App Store or Google Play.
- While you’re there, also download award-winning, commission-free investing app FreeTrade. Go to freetrade.io/evidencelocker. Register and fund your account, and get a randomly allocated free share, worth between £3 and £200, such as Greggs, Rightmove or Apple.
Find links to June’s Journey and FreeTrade in the show notes, or on our website.
If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes.
Also visit and like our Facebook Page at facebook.com/evidencelockerpodcast/” to see more about today’s case. If you like our podcast, please subscribe in Apple Podcast or wherever you are listening right now.
This was The Evidence Locker. Thank you for listening!
©2020 Evidence Locker Podcast
All rights reserved. This podcast or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a podcast review.