Millionaire accused of murdering escort 'planted listening device' in her home

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A millionaire property developer accused of murdering his escort girlfriend made more than 500 calls to a listening device he had planted in her home, a court has heard.

Peter Morgan, 54, lavished Georgina Symonds, 25, with expensive gifts and paid her up to £10,000 per month to be his escort exclusively.

He is accused of strangling the former burlesque dancer after discovering she was planning to "fleece" him, leave him and return to escorting.

Newport Crown Court heard the January 12 attack - at a bungalow in Llanmartin, Newport, owned by Morgan but lived in by the mother-of-one - was carefully planned.

Father-of-two Morgan, from Llanellen, near Abergavenny, allegedly took tape, twine and a metal pole to the rural property to dispose of Miss Symonds' body.

After strangling her, he is said to have put her body into the boot of his Porsche Cayenne before hiding it in an outbuilding by his estranged wife's home in Usk, Gwent.

Prosecutors allege that Morgan, who denies murder, was controlling and obsessed with Miss Symonds, planting a listening device disguised as a plug adapter in her home.

William Hughes QC told the jury that phone records showed Morgan had called the device 514 times from November 2015 until her death in January.

Morgan is alleged to have listened to the device - stored in his mobile phone as a contact called "Isobel" - for up to two hours at a time.

Hours before her death, he overheard a phone conversation in which Miss Symonds discussed leaving Morgan and continuing to fleece him, the court heard.

Mr Hughes said: "During his course of his interview under caution, Peter Morgan said he overheard Georgina talking to an unknown person.

"He heard Georgina say that once he had signed the bungalow over, she was going to leave him, go to London to work as an escort and continue to fleece him.

"This enraged him and, as a result, he began to plan and think about 'ending this problem'."

The jury heard the listening device, disguised as a cube-shaped adapter, was equipped with a sim card that received calls, allowing Morgan to listen in.

Morgan first called the number on November 9 last year and went on to called it 189 times that month. He called it 231 times in December and 94 times in January.

The night before the alleged murder, Morgan called the device as Miss Symonds spoke to her new boyfriend, Thomas Ballinger, for more than an hour.

Jurors heard Morgan then made a list of items reading "SIM, gloves, snip, handle, tape, adapter" as he planned the murder.

Miss Symonds initially worked as a dancer, then a stripper before becoming an escort, the jury had previously heard.

Morgan was one of her clients, but their three-year relationship went from being professional to "something more", Mr Hughes said.

The prosecutor described Morgan as "a very successful and wealthy businessman with a large property portfolio" who was "a millionaire many times over".

He said Morgan paid Miss Symonds from £7,000 to £10,000 per month not to see other men and treated her to spa days, helicopter flights, hotel stays and liposuction.

Miss Symonds moved into the two-bedroomed bungalow Morgan owned with his estranged wife in August 2015.

Morgan allegedly arrived at the property in the morning of January 12, strangled Miss Symonds and drove her body to the outbuilding.

CCTV footage shows Morgan driving to the outbuilding at noon before taking Miss Symonds body, wrapped in sheeting and attached to a bar, out of the car.

"He is carrying Georgina's bound and trussed up body using the metal bar," Mr Hughes said of the footage.

"He carries it from the Porsche Carrera into the barn, where he stores it and leaves the premises.

"Mr Morgan drives off. He then goes about his normal business. He goes to work in his office. He then pops in to the Lloyds Bank in Abergavenny."

Miss Symonds was reported missing to police after she failed to collect her five-year-old daughter from school later that afternoon.

Morgan met her concerned friends and police at the bungalow, initially telling officers he had taken her phone to prevent her from buying drugs.

They discovered the white Samsung phone under the driver's seat of Morgan's Porsche 911, parked near his estranged wife Helen's home.

Morgan attended a police station and was spoken to by two female police officers at 4.45am on January 13.

He is alleged to have told them: "I can't take this. I need to tell you. I strangled her this morning. I took her body to Beech Hill Farm. She is in a building there. I love her so much."

The businessman directed officers to a key in his jeans, telling them "you will need those keys, she is locked in an outbuilding", the court heard.

Officers attended Beech Hill Farm at 6am and discovered her body, wrapped in plastic and tied with rope, secured to the metal pole.

A post-mortem examination found Miss Symonds died from strangulation.

In police interviews, Morgan accepted responsibility for Miss Symonds' death, adding: "I don't know why I done it".

"He stated that he loved her and he gave up everything for her," Mr Hughes told the jury.

"In November, her ex-boyfriend hanged himself and Georgina was angry at his death and on times blamed him for it.

"He stated that Georgina was drinking and taking cocaine but on the comedowns from this she would get angry and was difficult to reason with.

"He said he wanted her to stop blaming him. He said 'I just done it' and then stated 'When I'd done it I felt no remorse'.

"He stated 'She was my life. I hated what she was going through, maybe I thought I'd help her'."

Morgan told police he arrived at the bungalow at 10am, giving her £400 to pay her council tax and electricity bills.

She did not seem grateful and began blaming him, Morgan told police.

He strangled her with twine before picking her up, wrapping her body in sheeting and placed it in his car, the court heard.

"Peter Morgan was asked about Georgina herself," Mr Hughes said.

"Mr Morgan replied 'I loved her' and had given up everything for her.

"He said he had been married for 22 years but was giving up half of his companies to his wife in order to be with Georgina, who was his life.

"They got on really well, would go out on the bikes together, go shopping together, he would let her drive his cars and they would go for meals.

"He said Georgina enjoyed horse riding and going on sunbeds. They spent a lot of time together."

Morgan told police he had been with Miss Symonds for three-and-a-half years, during which she was also seeing her ex-boyfriend.

"Peter Morgan described himself as Georgina's 'sugar daddy' and he spoiled her," Mr Hughes said.

"He gave Georgina £1,000 per week and from this she would pay for her car, the BMW.

"Georgina didn't pay rent to live at the bungalow and he would also pay for her spa days, horse riding and piano lessons.

"They met on the internet. He was having a midlife crisis and had been looking for excitement."