Killer solicitor's 'act of evil'

image captionCort's clients' accounts were missing £650,000, the court heard

When Vina Patel confided that her business partner had "badgered her" into doubling their firm's life insurance policy, her husband Surendra felt something was wrong.

But he never imagined that his wife would be killed by a hitman hired by her friend and colleague John Cort, who needed the £1.5m business protection pay-out to pay off debts run up to fund his "extravagant lifestyle".

"I find myself very, very angry that someone can do such a thing to such a nice person for money," Mr Patel said.

He and the couple's daughter Anisha found 51-year-old Mrs Patel's body at the foot of the staircase at Cort and Co solicitors in Blackbird Road, Leicester, in January 2009.

Mr Patel said: "It's horrific, an act of evil.

"I saw the lights were on and the doorbell wasn't answered, and I felt something was wrong.

"What's horrifying since we learned it wasn't just an accidental fall, is what she must have suffered in her last moments, and that's very haunting."

Jurors were told Mrs Patel had either fallen down the stairs as she was attacked, or killed elsewhere and her body arranged to make it look like an accident.

When Cort was arrested for the murder, Mr Patel said the pieces of the jigsaw slotted into place.

"We knew he was running out of money, we knew he was taking money here and there," he said.

Family 'destroyed'

"I told Vina it was disturbing me a bit that he'd doubled the [life insurance] policy, but she said 'John's been badgering me for a while to do this'."

The life insurance policy had been taken out by Cort and Mrs Patel, who ran the firm together, to protect the business in case of the death of either partner.

Cort's other victims were the clients he was stealing money from to pay off his debts.

John Oates, from Leicester, had £150,000 taken by Cort after the sale of his mother's house.

He said: "He's a disgrace to himself and the profession."

Revelations which came out during the trial have shocked colleagues, including fellow Leicester solicitor Noel Walsh, who described Cort as appearing "a very traditional, upstanding, very well dressed and spoken solicitor, someone you would trust".

He said: "I was staggered as more evidence came out.

"In all the business dealings I had with him he was very professional and so was his partner Vina."

During the trial the court heard Cort was heavily in debt due to his "extravagant lifestyle", which included renting flats for "girlfriends".

He hired Brian Farrell, a male escort who claimed the pair were in a sexual relationship, to carry out the murder, the court heard.

Mr Patel said: "He's destroyed our family. Vina was the glue, she was the laughter of the house, with her around we didn't have to worry about anything.

"I miss her every second of the day."

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