A retired tax inspector who murdered her husband with their daughter’s help claimed he had done “a Reggie Perrin” and faked his own death when he went missing for more than a decade.
The body of Don Banfield, 63, a retired bookmaker who planned to leave his marriage, has never been found.
On Tuesday, Shirley Banfield, 64, and their daughter Lynette, 40, received life sentences at the Old Bailey after being convicted by a 10-1 majority of his murder so they could get his retirement nest egg.
As his wife was told she would serve at least 18 years in prison and his daughter was given a 16-year minimum term, Don Banfield’s sister begged them to reveal the location of his remains.
Lynette’s creative writing notebook may have held a clue to her father’s fate, the jury heard. In different extracts, she wrote about murdering a man, killing women with a pitchfork, putting a body in a car, and burying bodies in woods. “Oh, thank heavens for the scrappage scheme,” she wrote. The women’s old red Ford Fiesta was crushed as part of the government’s scrappage scheme in 2008.
Don Banfield, a twice-married father-of-six, originally from Trinidad, planned to leave as soon as the family home was sold, and unwittingly “signed his own death warrant” after completing the contract for sale in May 2001, the jury heard. He had told police he thought his wife and daughter were trying to kill him after he woke up to find himself handcuffed to his bed. But he returned on the day he signed the sale contract to ask officers not to take any action. He disappeared shortly after.
Until 2009, police treated him as a missing person after the women told them he was a womaniser and gambler and often went off when he had money.
The investigation was reopened after his former employer, William Hill, became suspicious.
The two women had kept his £120,000 share of the profit from the sale of the family home in Locket Road, Wealdstone, north-west London, and taken £64,000 from his pension funds by pretending he was still alive, for which they each received 42 months to serve concurrently.
His wife, who was on long-term sick leave from the Inland Revenue, and daughter moved to Yorkshire, then to Canterbury, Kent, to distance themselves from police.
They were arrested last year after inquiries in Britain, Trinidad and New York failed to find any proof he was still alive.
In a statement, Kay Hackett, Don Banfield’s sister, said: “Most painful is not knowing how he died or where his remains may be.” His mother, Irene, died in 2004 without knowing what had become of him.
Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, said that while Don Banfield had plans and a pension to live on, his wife “perhaps faced a rather bleaker future”.
“She was 54, and on the verge of being abandoned without money to rehouse both herself and Lynette.”
Outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Howard Groves said Don Banfield’s family and friends had “finally seen justice served”. Staff from the Department for Work and Pensions had helped “unravel the complicated web of deceit” that the pair had created to convince others that Don Banfield was still alive.
Update added 15 September 2022: Lynette Banfield contacted us to state that the creative writing notebooks were inadmissible in court and that references to them are inaccurate.