Last month Laura Prout’s father Adrian was jailed for life for murdering her step-mum, despite the fact her body’s never been found. Here Laura tells why she’s convinced he’s innocent…
It took a jury 14 hours to find wealthy landowner Adrian Prout guilty of murdering his wife Kate, who disappeared without trace more than two years ago.
Although her body was never found, evidence about the couple’s turbulent marriage and bitter divorce battled convinced jurors that Prout, 45, had killed her and hidden her body, and he was jailed for life. Incredibly, despite the damning verdict, his daughter Laura is convinced he’s innocent – and believes her stepmum Kate is alive, and that she has framed her dad for murder.
“My dad’s no killer – I’m convinced Kate’s hiding somewhere,” says Laura, 19. “He’s been jailed because of the lies in Kate’s diary. I’ll fight to prove he’s innocent.”
Laura, whose parents shared custody after splitting amicably when she was a toddler, was aged eight when her dad introduced Kate as his new girlfriend.
“We were close,” says Laura. “I was always a bit wary of her. But when they got married in 2000 I hoped they’d have a happy life together.”
Four years later, in 2004, the couple bought an £820,000 farm in Redmarley, Gloucestershire, where Laura spent weekends. “Kate would cook us meals. She liked time alone, so loved painting and walking in the countryside,” Laura says. “But she had a temper a wasn’t always nice to be around.”
By 2006 the marriage had begun to sour. “They often rowed and Dad told me she’d throw things,” says Laura, who admits she never witnessed violence between them. “He said he never retaliated. He’s very easy going, kind, generous and honest.”
According to Kate’s diary, which was read out in court, Prout said he wanted a divorce on Boxing Day 2006 after a blazing row involving Laura. “Kate started screaming because I wanted to have dinner at my boyfriend’s” claims Laura.
The Prouts’ marriage continued to deteriorate and Kate’s diary showed their confrontations left her fearing for her life.
In February 2007 she called police accusing Prout of assault and threatening to kill her. No charges were brought due to lack of evidence.
On 19 October she wrote: “Had row. Said he couldn’t wait to get ‘rid of me’ out of his life.” Retired teacher Kate’s journal also revealed how she became convinced her husband was having an affair with their housesitter Diane Bellamy and how they struggled to agree on a divorce settlement.
The court heard that Prout offered her £600K, but on 4 November 2007 Kate demanded £800K to end their marriage. The next day she vanished without trace, leaving behind her handbag, mobile phone, car keys, passport and purse.
That same day phone records show Prout sent Ms Bellamy a text saying he loved her. When Laura met her dad for dinner two days later, she says he was his “usual chatty and jokey self”.
“He mentioned Kate had vanished, but I didn’t think anything of it because she often disappeared for days,” she recalls. Incredibly, it was five days before Prout reported his wife’s disappearance.
Two weeks later he was arrested on suspicion of her murder. “I knew it was serious and it was clear they were pointing the finger at dad,” says Laura, who works for a wine merchant.
Despite extensive searches of Prout’s farm and the surrounding area, no trace of 55-year old Kate’s body has ever been found. Officers even sifted through dung in case she’d been fed to the pigs on the farm.
No money has been drawn out of her bank account and police checks with government agencies, NHS trusts and utilities companies have failed to find evidence she is still alive.
“I thought Kate was hiding at a friend’s house, there was nothing to make me think she’s come to any harm,” says Laura. Prout was released without charge and believing he was in the clear, he moved on with his life. Just six months later he found love with divorcee Debbie Garlick, 39.
But in March 2009 Prout was charged with Kate’s murder after police decided they had enough evidence to prosecute. “I was in shock,” says Laura, who found out while watching the news. “But I desperately hoped Kate would reappear ad put an end to it.”
Three days later Laura went with Debbie to visit Prout in jail. “I was in pieces, but he didn’t look worried,” she admits “He said the police would soon realise they’d got in wrong.” A few months later Prout was granted bail and while awaiting trial for murder, he and Debbie got engaged.
Last month she gave birth to their daughter Evie. But just a week later Prout went on trial for his wife’s murder at Bristol Crown Court, where Kate’s diary detailed her stormy marriage proved crucial. The jury heard how Kate confided in a friend that her husband, a pipe layer by trade, “knew people who could get rid of bodies.”
Police also claim Prout changed key areas of his story during questioning. But Laura is dismissive of the evidence stacked against her dad, saying “All it shows is how clever and manipulative Kate is.”
Convinced of her dad’s innocence, Laura testified in his defence, but wasn’t in court to see the jury find him guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to 1. “Debbie rang me in hysterics,” says Laura. ” I burst into tears, I couldn’t believe just had failed him.” Last Monday, Prout was jailed for life and told he must serve at least 18 years, Police say he’s never shown any remorse for his crime.
Mr Justice Nigel Davis told Prout: “The truth is you allowed your temper to erupt and it was your anger that killed her. How you killed her is only known to you.” Laura hopes to visit Prout this week and has vowed to do everything she can to help him appeal his conviction. “I’ve never doubted him. I’d know if he was lying” she says.