A man who
brutally murdered and mutilated a Cheshire businesswoman has today
been found guilty of her murder.
David Ryan, 48, previously of Cedar Road,
Hale, was found guilty of the murder of 54 year old Diana Lee
today, Thursday 25 July 2013. He will be sentenced at 10am on
Friday 26 July 2013.
Assistant Chief Constable Ruth Purdie of
Cheshire Police said "David Ryan gave Diana attention and affection
and preyed on her trusting and kind nature for his own ends. We now
know that his intentions toward Diana were fuelled by greed and
Ryan′s intention to exploit her financially to try and recover
himself from the mountain of debt he faced.
"We have been left in little doubt that Ryan′s
attack on Diana − a diminutive and gentle lady, was brutal and
sadistic. He showed contempt and compounded his disregard for her
when he did his utmost to remove DNA evidence and then destroy her
"The intricacies of this investigation cannot
be underestimated − the scene of the crime took weeks to examine to
ensure that no stone was left unturned in the hunt for Diana′s
killer. Although Ryan refused to admit his guilt in this horrific
murder, the Prosecution were able to prove that he concocted a web
of lies and brutally murdered a woman who had done nothing more
than fall for the charm of a con-man.
"We hope that with today′s verdict, Diana′s
heartbroken family are allowed a degree of closure after the loss
of their loved one in such a brutal attack. I would like to
acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Investigation Team
and the Crown Prosecution Service in bringing this tragic case to a
During the 7 week
trial, the Jury heard that Ryan befriended his victim whilst out
socialising at the Cinnamon Dance Club in nearby Bowden. Diana,
described by many as a quiet, gentle, likeable woman, met Ryan in
October 2010 following a violent and tumultuous relationship with
her ex partner. The Jury heard that from 2011, Ryan began syphoning
away Diana′s wealth and hard earned money she had accrued from her
cattery business. Ryan kept the affair secret from Karen, his wife
of six years, often slipping away to meet Diana. Ryan, struggling
with significant mounting debts and even repossession of his home
in 2010 after racking up thousands in missed mortgage payments,
frittered away the cash he took from Diana on luxury items such as
designer clothes, a puppy, extravagant purchases for his rented
terraced home, and even used his victim′s money to fund his wife′s
Diana Lee was last seen alive on the evening
of 8 August, when she met a group of friends for dinner at a
restaurant in nearby Knutsford. She left the restaurant and went to
meet Ryan nearby.
The following morning, the victims brother, a
local farmer, visited Diana at her home, known as ′Parklands′ in
the affluent village of Cranage, approximately five miles from
Knutsford. Diana ran her cattery business from Parklands and rented
a room to a family friend who lodged with her. During the trial,
the Jury heard that Ryan tried to ‘frame′ him for the murder by
slashing the victim′s dressing gown, covering a knife in her blood
and planting her underwear in his room.
The scene that her brother met with that
morning was one of sheer panic. Having not been able to contact his
sister on her mobile phone, he arrived at Parklands to find the
detached garage beside the property blowing out plumes of smoke.
Multiple attempts had also been made to set fire to Parklands
It was only when police and fire officers
examined the cluttered garage in the aftermath of the fire that the
battered, delicate body of Diana Lee, who was just 4′11" and
weighed less than 8 stones, was discovered. She had been positioned
atop a wheelbarrow and her tiny body had been mutilated.
A full scale murder investigation was launched
by Cheshire Police and enquiries began to piece together Diana′s
lifestyle, her network of friends and personal relationships.
Enquiries ultimately led the investigation team to the Cinnamon
Dance Club where Ryan′s lies began to unravel after he was
questioned by detectives and provided a sample of his DNA. At the
time he denied being in a relationship with Diana Lee, but soon
retracted his initial statement and admitted having sex with her in
her car on the night of her disappearance.
The evidence soon began to stack up against
Ryan who continued to protest his innocence. Phone records showed
that he contacted Diana continually from his mobile phone until
January 2012 when Diana had given him £30,000. Ryan then began to
use a telephone box near to his home in Hale to make contact with
Diana, and detectives soon pieced together a pattern that showed
cash withdrawals and bank transfers made from Diana′s account
shortly after she received a phonecall from Ryan.
Ryan′s behaviour became more desperate by
summer 2012 and under the pressure of mounting debts, clear
patterns of behaviour emerged that showed withdrawals from Diana′s
bank account that correlated with extravagant spending patterns by
The Jury heard evidence from associates of
Ryan that over the course of many years he had borrowed from
virtually every friend, family member or associate, and regularly
failed to properly repay monies owed.
The Prosecution were able to prove that David
Ryan slept at Parklands with Diana the night preceding her murder.
Diana died of blunt force trauma to the head after a sustained and
brutal assault in the bathroom of her own home. Ryan dragged her
body and her bedding to the garage where it was his intention to
destroy any evidence that connected him to this horrific crime.
Ryan even sent hoax text messages from Diana′s mobile phone to
clients due to drop off their pets that morning, to bide himself
time at the scene of the crime.
Ryan fled the scene in Diana′s silver Corsa,
before making attempts to set fire to it in Mobberley and
continuing his escape on her pushbike.
Ryan was charged with Diana′s murder in
September 2012 and was remanded in custody to await trial.
Speaking after the verdict, Chief
Superintendent Guy Hindle, Commander for the Eastern Area that
incorporates the villages of Cranage, Holmes Chapel and Knutsford,
said "The death that befell Diana Lee was a vicious and callous
one. With the assistance of key witnesses within our community, we
brought the man responsible to justice. I would like to take this
opportunity to offer my thanks to the communities affected by this
tragic and cruel murder, for their help in this investigation, and
to reassure them that crimes such as this are exceptionally rare in
The Judge, Mr Justice Henriques described the
case as "The most extensive and complex single defendant trial he
has ever presided over′.