Civil Society

The remote mini break which ended in a woman dead and her husband accused of murder Donald McPherson, 47, has been found not guilty of murdering Paula Leeson

Donald McPherson is the only person who knows what happened in that holiday home.

He and his wife Paula Leeson, who both lived in Sale, had been due to fly back to Manchester from Denmark.

It was the fourth day of their mini break to Norre Nobel, a ‘remote’ part in the west of the country.

But Tuesday, June 6, 2017, would be the last day of Ms Leeson’s life.

She drowned in a swimming pool at the rented cottage.

Mr McPherson, born Alexander James Lang, went on trial accused of murdering his wife of three years.

He said it was a ‘tragic accident’, while prosecutors alleged it was murder with a financial motive.

Following a ruling by a judge, who said there was insufficient evidence to prove he murdered his wife, he was found not guilty.

As Mr Justice Goose gave the ruling in court, Ms Leeson’s father Willy shouted: “Oh God! Oh God! Unbelievable! Shame on you Don!”

His son Neville Leeson, shouted to the judge: “God Almighty, you are making a big mistake!”

Through his solicitors, Mr McPherson said he was ‘relieved’ that ‘justice had been done’, and was saddened to have been suspected of killing her.

Ms Leeson’s family remain with unanswered questions about the death of their loved one.

The day of the tragedy

That morning, on June 6, phone records showed she had searched on the M.E.N. website, looked for property for sale in the M33 postcode as well as the weather.

Data from Ms Leeson’s phone health app showed her last recorded movement as being at 1.13pm that day.

Mr McPherson’s health app next recorded a movement at 1.39pm.

About 12 minutes later, Danish paramedics found Mr McPherson administering CPR as Ms Leeson lay at the side of a swimming pool at the holiday home they had rented.

Only Mr McPherson will ever know exactly what happened before medics arrived.

He did not give evidence at the Manchester Crown Court trial, as his legal team successfully argued there was ‘no case to answer’ after prosecutors had closed their case.

Mr McPherson told police that he and his wife had been in bed, and he woke to find her in the pool before trying to save her.

The case centred on whether there was evidence to conclude that Mr McPherson had drowned his wife, or whether it was an accident.

Ms Leeson suffered 13 external injuries, included bruises or abrasions to her face and arms.

A pathologist said violence could not be ruled out as a cause, but also said the injuries could also have been suffered in a fall or during attempts to resuscitate her.

The Danish authorities initially ruled her death was accidental.

‘She went to Denmark with a price on her head’

The trip to Denmark was a ‘big surprise’ to Neville Leeson, Ms Leeson’s brother.

She could swim, but she had an aversion to water and wouldn’t go on beach or pool holidays.

Enjoying trips to the Trafford Centre, she preferred short mini breaks where she’d go shopping and eat in nice restaurants.

A four hour drive from Copenhagen, Norre Nobel was not a typical holiday destination.

Prosecutors alleged Ms Leeson went to Denmark with a ‘price on her head’.

If she died, her husband ‘stood to gain a vast fortune’, said the prosecution.

He had taken out joint life insurance policies worth about £3 million which Ms Leeson was said to be unaware of.

The trip to Denmark came three years after a no expenses spared wedding in the stunning surroundings of Peckforton Castle in Cheshire.

The couple met through their work.

Ms Leeson came from a close knit family, a child of Irish immigrants who settled in Manchester and built a successful groundwork and skip hire company. She worked for the family firm.

Born in the other side of the world, in Auckland, New Zealand, McPherson told people he had been fostered as a child, which jurors heard was not true.

He apparently didn’t have any friends at their wedding.

Ms Leeson had to find a best man for him, after Mr McPherson said his original best man couldn’t come because his partner had died in child birth, which also wasn’t true.

“He wouldn’t tell you anything about his past,” Neville Leeson said.

He said it was as though Mr McPherson ‘landed from space’.

Mr McPherson had previously worked as a joiner and builder and more recently a property developer and electrician.

His father was originally from Manchester.

Nearly four years after their wedding, in April 2018, Mr McPherson was arrested by Greater Manchester Police on suspicion of killing his wife.

He answered questions put to him by officers.

Asked about what happened in Denmark, he said: “I woke up, she wasn’t next to me and I looked around the house.

“I called out and I ended up going to the back toilet and I saw the door, I froze, I was in shock and horror.

“I was just in fear and panic, complete panic, just complete panic, and I can’t remember fully.

“I remember getting into the pool to try and get her out and there was, yeah it was horrendous.

“It was the worst nightmare. It was completely horrible to see and I can’t describe it, it was just fear and shock and panicking.”

Mr McPherson allegedly told a friend that his wife had died in her sleep, saying he feared mentioning drowning would ‘spook’ him.

“Did he ever tell you what happened?,” prosecutor David McLachlan QC asked Neville Leeson.

“All he would say was ‘don’t know, can’t remember’,” Mr Leeson replied.

‘I am relieved justice has been done’

The trial, which ended with Mr McPherson being acquitted of murder, leaves the Leeson family still looking for answers.

After the hearing, Shaun Draycott, of Draycott Browne solicitors said on behalf of Mr McPherson: “On the 6th of June 2017, a terrible accident occurred in Norre Nebel, Denmark, that led to the death of my wife, Paula Leeson.

“A tragic accident is what it was and it saddens me, deeply, that the events in question should ever have been seen differently and that I was ever suspected of playing a part in Paula’s death.

“I am relieved that justice had been done and I am extremely grateful to my legal team, Shaun Draycott of Draycott Browne solicitors, Manchester, my barristers John Ryder QC and Ian McMeekin and Venessa Schweitzer Legal Services Ltd for their tireless work upon my behalf in the last three years.”

 

Culled from Manchester Evening News

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