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Manchester Evening News
A TAXI driver has been found guilty of murdering his wealthy wife of three months in Africa.
In a case which Manchester Crown Court was told had “all the makings of a novel”, Michael Bamford shot Ivy Sutcliffe in the head with a pistol at their luxury home in Harare, Zimbabwe.
He then created a web of lies in an attempt to fool investigators that Ivy had deliberately shot herself.
The couple had emigrated from Littleborough, Rochdale, in 1999 and enjoyed a comfortable ex-pat lifestyle centred around their membership of three golf clubs.
But Bamford, reliant on his wife for cash and prone to regular bouts of drunkenness, shot her on August 2, 2004.
He then claimed Mrs Sutcliffe had shot herself in front of him as she had a history of depression and was down after crashing her car the day before.
Bamford, 51, claimed she had tried to commit suicide three times before but that was dismissed by the prosecution as false.
He was arrested in Zimbabwe and spent five months in custody before the case was discontinued and he came back to the UK.
But Greater Manchester Police began a new investigation and he was rearrested and eventually in July last year charged with murder.
The court was told that after the shooting, Ivy was taken to hospital barely alive and Bamford told doctors that she had been shot by robbers but he changed his story when police became involved.
Investigators found that the gun – a Baby Browning pistol – had been fired three times in their house.
Bamford admitted in court that through “stupidity“ he had let off several shots when drunk inside the house leaving bullet holes in walls, paintings and a ceiling.
On his return to England Bamford made inquiries via a solicitor about the extent of Mrs Sutcliffe’s wealth.
She had originally left a will in which her estate was mainly left to her three daughters. But under Zimbabwean law once a person is married any will becomes void.
In a letter to his brother Bamford said he had been left a car by Mrs Sutcliffe but added that he had worked out her estate was worth £300,000 not £200,000.
Prosecutor Alistair Webster QC said Bamford had had treatment in Zimbabwe for drinking and controlling his temper. He also said he had been taking Prozac.
Mr Webster said a possible effect of Prozac and drink is that it can dis-inhibit a person and make control mechanisms a little weaker.
He said: “It means you are more ready to fly off the handle. You knew when you held that gun to her head what you were doing.”
Bamford was convicted on a majority verdict of 10-2.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Kevin Greevy said: “This has been a very challenging and extremely protracted murder inquiry, but finally after more than four years we have brought Ivy’s killer to justice.
“We will probably never know why Bamford decided to kill his wife. Was it for the money? Only he knows why he did it and he will have to live with the consequences of his murderous actions for the rest of his life.
“After Greater Manchester Police launched an investigation into Ivy’s death at the request of the coroner, Bamford constructed a tissue of lies and obstructed our inquiries at every turn. At one point he claimed he never even owned a gun but as with almost everything he told us, this was completely untrue.
“We were also able to discredit his baseless theory that Ivy had committed suicide because she was depressed and the jury clearly did not believe his lies either.
“It has taken more than four years to convict Bamford of this murder. Officers made several trips to Zimbabwe to trace key witnesses, which was both complicated and difficult. But we never gave up and our relentless pursuit of the truth has finally resulted in this conviction. I would like to praise the team of officers who worked tirelessly on this case.
“From day one, Ivy’s family has campaigned for her killer to be jailed and I hope today’s conclusion gives them some comfort.”
In a statement, Ivy’s daughters Rebecca, Claire and Rachel said: “We have never been in any doubt that Bamford killed our mother, and that it was part of a calculated plan to get his hands on her money.
“There is no way she would have committed suicide. She loved us and there is no way she would have ever left us. She was a sparkly, bubbly, charismatic person who was the life and soul of any party.
“Bamford systematically destroyed our lives. He is an arrogant, drunken bully who was violent and aggressive, and robbed us of our mum who will never see her grandchildren grow up.
“But today’s verdict means everyone knows she did not kill herself and that Bamford is an evil, vile murderer and is now where he belongs. It won’t bring mum back, but today means all our fighting for justice has been worthwhile.
“We would like to thank everyone who has helped us. The coroner was fantastic in pushing for a criminal investigation and the officers from GMP’s Major Incident Team who went out to Zimbabwe back in 2005 have supported us every step the way. We would also like to thank all those who have offered their legal support and brought this case to trial and also our Family Liaison Officer Pam, who has been brilliant and helped through us every step of this traumatic ordeal.
“We can now move on with our lives and erase Bamford from our memories.”