An Aylesbury man has today been found guilty of the ‘cold blooded and premeditated’ murder of his elderly business partner.
Christopher Symons, the father of a Thames Valley Police detective, beat 76-year-old Patricia Goodband around her head six times before dumping her body down a 12ft deep shaft in her garden in Woodham, near Waddesdon, in a bid to inherit her fortune.
Her body was found on January 21 covered by 22 tonnes of soil, stone and bags of rubbish.
Detectives discovered a list called ‘The 12 Days of Xmas’ in which Symons, 63, planned day-by-day tasks to try to cover up the murder.
The killer’s plot unravelled when police found the scrap of paper in his car.
The memo covered the period from when Ms Goodband was last seen alive to when she was due back at work.
Detectives described the sketch as a key piece of evidence against Symons, of Cambridge Street, who denied murdering his friend of 30 years.
The Reading Crown Court jury had heard how the married grandfather stood to inherit £1 million worth of assets from Ms Goodband, who had written him into her will.
Symons appeared emotionless and stared straight ahead as the jury delivered a unanimous verdict.
Ms Goodband’s daughter told Judge Zoe Smith in a victim impact statement that she was left devastated by the murder.
Samantha McLoughlin said: “I cannot begin to imagine the shock and fear Mum must have felt when she was attacked.
“The defensive injuries on her hands show she was fully aware of what was happening and must have known who it was.”
Mrs McLoughlin, who attended every day of the three-week trial, described Symons as her mother’s closest friend.
She told how she had never known him to lie previously and had no reason to doubt him in the immediate aftermath of her mother’s disappearance.
Mrs McLoughlin said: “I thought he cared for my mum, liked and respected her.
“There was no chance, no time, no opportunity for anybody to say goodbye.”
Symons’ lover Jennifer Creasey, from Benson, was found guilty of one count of perverting the course of justice and not guilty on another count of the same charge.
His sister Kathleen Adams, 74, of Aylesbury Road, Princes Risborough, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.
Symons’ friend, former Aylesbury Town Council grave digger Robert Taft, 59, of Kings Close, Westcott, has already admitted one charge of perverting the course of justice and possession of ammunition without a certificate.
The three will be sentenced on Monday.
Ms Goodband was reported missing by her estranged daughter in January, having not been seen since December 22.
During the course of the trial, Symons admitted fabricating a story that Ms Goodband had gone to visit a friend in Yorkshire, saying she had told him to lie.
He admitted asking Creasey to write a Christmas card to make it appear Ms Goodband was going away.
Senior investigating officer, Det Supt Chris Ward, said: “Symons took advantage of Patricia’s feelings towards him and manipulated her during their relationship, assaulting her on a previous occasion which Patricia had described vividly in one of her diary entries.
“In order to inherit her property and share of their business, Symons devised a cruel and calculated plan to murder Patricia and make it appear as if she vanished without a trace.
“In early January he encouraged her daughter to report her as a missing person and drew his friend and girlfriend into his web of lies to try and cover the simple fact he had murdered her and dumped her body in a disused drainage shaft, where he hoped she would never be found.
“His actions were pre-meditated and motivated purely by greed.
“Through their subsequent actions, Robert Taft and Jennifer Creasey lied to police during the course of the initial missing person investigation with the aim of covering up Symons’ tracks.
“Taft admitted his lies at an early stage but Creasey maintained her innocence and stuck by her stories.
“My thoughts are very much with Patricia’s daughter and her true friends, who have been left distraught by her untimely death and I hope they can achieve some sense of closure knowing those responsible for her death have been brought to justice.
“This has been a complex inquiry in which we have had to unpick all of Symons’ lies in order to uncover the truth behind Patricia’s death.
“I would like to thank all the officers, staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly on the initial missing person inquiry, as well as all those who played a role in the subsequent murder investigation.”
Ruth Bowskill, temporary chief crown prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Christopher Symons has today been convicted of the cold blooded, and premeditated murder of Patricia.
“He is undoubtedly an extremely cold, calculated, and dangerous man.
“Even before he had killed Patricia, he had begun a series of lies aimed at explaining her disappearance and covering his tracks.
“Robert Taft and Jennifer Creasey have been convicted of lying to police in support of Symons and these lies.
“I would like to pay tribute to Patricia’s family for their wholehearted support of this investigation and the dignity they have displayed while hearing the horrific details of how she was killed.
“We have worked closely with Thames Valley Police since the investigation was launched and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved.
“We know that nothing will bring Patricia back to her family, but we hope that today’s conviction brings them at least a small sense that justice has been done. Our thoughts are very much with them at this time.”