A businessman has been convicted of killing his wife’s lover after discovering their affair.
Andrew Jones, 53, was found guilty by a majority jury verdict on Monday of murdering long-term friend Michael O’Leary, 55.
Prosecutors alleged that Jones, a building company owner from Carmarthenshire, Wales, shot O’Leary “in cold blood” after discovering he was seeing Jones’s wife Rhianon, 51. Jones denied murder.
The father-of-three claimed the .22 rifle accidentally discharged as he and O’Leary grappled in an argument at Cyncoed Farm in Carmarthenshire in January 2020.
During the trial, Swansea Crown Court heard O’Leary thought he was meeting Rhianon at an isolated farm but was instead confronted by Jones.
Jones told the court he took the rifle to “frighten” O’Leary, a site manager and a friend of 25 years.
But jurors found him guilty by a majority of 11-1 after first retiring to deliberate on Thursday.
“I wanted him to get the message – stay away from us,” he told jurors.
“I wanted to shame him, ‘You told my daughter you weren’t going to meet her anymore, and here you are’. I wanted to scare him and shame him.”
He said he panicked after his friend was shot, and he admitted to disposing of the body in an oil drum fire at a yard close to his Carmarthen home.
William Hughes QC, prosecuting, said Jones “decided with clarity to make Mike O’Leary disappear and carefully planned his criminal act, ensuring he was the only person to have Rhianon”.
He added: “This was no accident. When Mr O’Leary turned up at Cyncoed Farm expecting to meet Rhianon he was met by Mr Jones at an ambush site, in a cold, dark winter’s night.”
Hughes added that if he had wanted to confront O’Leary he could have called him, or might have decided to scare him with a replica weapon rather than bring a real firearm.
“It was taken with a view to ambush Mike O’Leary and to execute him, in effect. Have this in mind, throughout the accounts Mr Jones has given, it is only his version of what happened at the farm,” he said.
Karim Khalil QC, defending Jones, told jurors his client “wasn’t thinking straight”.
“Mr Jones’s answer was that, confronted by the horror of one of his best friends dead in his arms, he panicked,” he said.
“He panicked in the knowledge that if he hadn’t taken that gun to the scene his friend wouldn’t be dead.
“He panicked because he couldn’t face Mike O’Leary’s wife and children, all of whom he knew and liked. In this moment he thought it better if Mike’s family thought he had took his own life.
“He panicked because he wanted to spare them all of knowing of the affair that Michael O’Leary had been conducting with his own wife Rhianon for so long.”
Khalil said that after the confrontation, “he was set on a path which spiralled further and further out of control”.
O’Leary’s remains have never been found, with forensic scientists only managing to recover a small piece of his intestine from the drum.
Khalil said that if Jones had planned the murder, he would not have taken the body close to his home to burn it.
Jurors heard Jones used a forklift to to move O’Leary’s body and tried to cover up the alleged crime by making it appear the deceased had jumped into a river.
Jones parked his car at a riverside and messaged O’Leary’s family from his phone saying “I’m so sorry x”, the court heard.
Swansea Crown Court heard Jones then allegedly rode a bicycle back to the farm, before taking Mr O’Leary’s body to a builder’s yard adjacent to his home in Carmarthen and burning it.
Trial judge Mrs Justice Jefford told the jury: “It is not in issue that Andrew Jones burnt Mike O’Leary’s body to dispose of it. He says he did, and you may wonder why the detail of this matters.
“The prosecution say this is all part of a picture, not of a panicking Andrew Jones who has seen his friend die in a horrible accident, but of a man with a plan.
“Maybe not a perfect plan, but a plan to dispose of a body after killing and to a man who carried out that killing calmly while keeping up appearances with his family and his friends and with the police.
“The defence say it shows nothing of the sort but the fact the forensic or the scientific evidence fits with Mr Jones’s account of what he did – and whether or not it does is a matter for you – is another example of him telling the truth and therefore assists you to assess his credibility and the truthfulness of what he has been telling you.”
Jones’s sentencing will take place at a later date.
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