Millionaire found guilty of murdering escort girlfriend
A multi-millionaire property developer has been found guilty of murdering his escort girlfriend after hearing of her plans to fleece him, leave him and work for other men.
Peter Morgan, 54, killed Georgina Symonds, 25, at her bungalow in Llanmartin, Newport.
The father-of-two paid Miss Symonds, a former burlesque dancer, up to £10,000 per month and allowed her to live rent-free at the £300,000 property.
Newport Crown Court heard that Miss Symonds had a series of intimate pictures of Morgan, who is worth £20 million, which she threatened to show to his wife and daughters.
She had photos of Morgan engaging in threesomes at his family home, Beech Hill Farm in Usk, Gwent, as well as images of her wearing his wife's dressing gown there and pictures of her and other escorts posing with his agricultural vehicles.
Morgan, of Llanellen, Abergavenny, had admitted killing Miss Symonds but denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility and loss of control.
But the jury, which retired to consider its verdict on Friday, convicted him of murder.
The court heard that Morgan installed a listening device, disguised as a white plug adapter, in the bungalow in November 2015.
Morgan called the device - saved on his iPhone as Isobel - on the evening of January 10 and overheard Miss Symonds talking to her lover, Tom Ballinger.
The killer told the court: "I can remember her saying she would 'do me over' and I just assumed it was financially."
After listening to the call, Morgan drove to the bungalow on January 12 and strangled his victim, who had a five-year-old daughter.
"I thought she would be afraid and she would see sense," he said.
Morgan told the jury he twice released the pressure around Miss Symonds neck but strangled her after she told him "you're going to pay for this".
He said: "I had just been pushed too far."
The jury of eight men and three women deliberated over four days before returning a unanimous guilty verdict to murder.
Morgan showed no emotion as the jury foreman announced the panel's finding.
Trial judge Mr Justice Garnham said he would hear mitigation from Patrick Harrington QC, defending Morgan, at 2pm before passing sentence.
In a statement released after the verdict Deborah Symonds, Miss Symonds's mother, said: "The death of my daughter Georgina has been a devastating tragedy for the whole of our family.
"Her beautiful daughter has been left without a mum. Georgina has left a hole in our lives that will never be repaired.
"All of our happy memories will be kept forever in our hearts.
"We respect the decision of the jury and whatever sentence is handed to Peter Morgan will never compensate for our loss.
"We would now like to be left to grieve as a family in privacy.
"The family would like to express our sincere thanks to Gwent Police who have been excellent throughout our ordeal."
Detective Superintendent Roger Fortey, who led the investigation, said: "This is a tragic case that resulted in the death of Georgina, the loss of a mother, daughter, sister and friend to many.
"The actions of Peter Morgan were calculated and he committed the act without emotion.
"Hopefully this conviction will bring some closure to the family in terms of the criminal justice process but we are in no doubt that Georgina's family and friends will continue to mourn and grieve for the rest of their lives.
"Our condolences remain with those who have suffered her loss."
During the trial, Morgan told the court how he became convinced his victim was planning to blackmail him after using the listening device to eavesdrop on her.
He said: "She mentioned some of the things I was going to be buying her - a horse, a piano, a ring.
"She said about a car but I hadn't agreed to buy her a car.
"I heard her say if she had my money she would be on a yacht in the south of France. I can remember her saying she would 'do me over' and I just assumed it was financially."
Morgan said he heard Miss Symonds say he would transfer the bungalow into her name and she would then leave him, returning to London to work as an escort.
"I just couldn't believe it," Morgan said. "I was numb. Devastated.
"I just knew I wasn't going to give in. I thought the 'do me over' was financially, meaning blackmail.
"She did tell me that she had pictures. I just realised the significance of what she said to me in November, of having the photos as insurance."
After killing her, Morgan wrapped up the body and hid it in an outbuilding near the farmhouse where his wife and two daughters lived.
But he later confessed to police and directed them to the body.