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Man found guilty of murdering partner before sending text messages to cover up

Madison Wright (Essex Police/PA)
PA Reporter

A man has been found guilty of murdering his partner who had been about to leave him, then sending text messages to suggest she had gone away.

The body of 30-year-old Madison Wright was found in Wat Tyler Country Park in Pitsea, Essex, on July 30 last year, eight days after she was last seen.

Gary Bennett, 37, of Caister Drive, Pitsea, was found guilty of murder on Tuesday after a trial at Basildon Crown Court.

He will be sentenced on Wednesday at the same court.

Ms Wright worked as a cleaner and attended an appointment cleaning a client’s house, where she was booked from 9am to 11am that day, prosecutor Tracy Ayling KC told jurors as she opened the case earlier this month.

A doorbell camera filmed her leaving the appointment and an automatic number plate recognition camera recorded her car travelling towards Bennett’s address, the prosecutor said.

In text messages read to the court by the prosecutor, Ms Wright had told Bennett on the morning of July 22 “you’re too controlling”.

She also wrote: “I’ve not been happy for ages – we’ve had lots of chances to try to make it work but I just don’t think it is.”

Ms Ayling said Bennett missed an NHS appointment at 11.10am that day.

The court heard that Ms Wright was still in contact with her husband while she was in a relationship with Bennett.

Ms Ayling said that at 12.57pm on July 22 Ms Wright’s phone sent a message to her husband to say that “some stuff has come up at my place that I need to sort out, sorry”.

Ms Ayling said: “It’s the crown’s case that he (Bennett) himself was in possession of Madison’s phone and was setting this message up as a sort of alibi that she had gone somewhere and he was not responsible for her disappearance.

“It’s the crown’s case he (Bennett) had already killed her and was sending these text messages himself.”

Essex Police said Bennett’s DNA was discovered on a fence post found on top of Ms Wright’s body.

Forensic tests of his phone showed he searched for information and news stories relating to Watt Tyler Country Park and the murder investigation.

Detectives spotted that the texts apparently sent by Ms Wright were so different from her usual style that they suspected they had been sent by Bennett.

In the hours after it is believed Ms Wright was murdered, police say Bennett had used an account on a dating website.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Kev Hughes said after the hearing: “Our immediate thoughts go to Madison’s family and friends.

“The dignity, humility and decorum they have demonstrated throughout the investigation and trial has been remarkable to witness.

“No one should lose a loved one in the manner in which they lost Madison.

“It has been a truly humbling experience to be part of the team which has delivered the justice she deserved.”

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