South East Wales

Millionaire tells escort murder trial he loved victim

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Media captionPeter Morgan paid escort Georgina Symonds up to £10,000 a month

A millionaire businessman has told a murder trial he loved his victim and she had been like a "best friend".

Peter Morgan, from Monmouthshire, admits killing escort Georgina Symonds, 25, in January but has denied murder on grounds of diminished responsibility.

The 54-year-old told Newport Crown Court on Friday he started seeing escorts during a "mid-life crisis".

And he said he knew his relationship with Miss Symonds "was never going to be normal by anyone's standards".

Giving evidence in his defence, the former farmer from Llanellen, near Abergavenny, told the jury how he started paying escorts for sex in 2011, in a period he described as a "mid-life crisis".

"It came around my 50th birthday. It just hit me that nothing lasts forever," he said.

He said Miss Symonds, from the Allt-yr-yn area of Newport, was the first escort he saw more than once.

"I don't know what it was. I just seemed to get on with her. It was the first time I went back to see one," he said.

"I had no intention of seeing with someone more than once until I met her. I liked her and it was nice and local."

Image copyright Wales News Service

The court heard that the father-of-two, who is worth an estimated £20m, was seeing other escorts but would visit Miss Symonds "more often than anyone else".

He lavished gifts on her, spending £1,000 on one Christmas shopping trip, and gave her a £12,000 Range Rover.

In early 2015, he agreed a firmer financial arrangement with the former Burlesque dancer, paying her £7,000 to give up other escort clients and moving her into one of his properties.

He told the jury that by September 2015: "I loved her, I just felt different about her to anyone else.

"It was a funny relationship. It was never going to be normal by anyone's standards. I knew she didn't love me.

"I always said that if the money stopped she'd be gone, but she loved the lifestyle and what we did.

"She was like a best friend to me. I'd never had that sort of relationship before where we did things together."

Image caption Georgina Symonds had been living in a bungalow at Pencoed Castle that was owned by Mr Morgan

The trial previously heard how Mr Morgan strangled Miss Symonds with baling twine after hearing she had planned to leave him.

But he denies murder saying he was suffering from diminished responsibility due to Asperger's syndrome.

He told the jury that he agreed with a professional assessment that described him as being on the autistic spectrum.

"It explains a lot, people used to say I think differently, I think in black and white, it has to be one way or the other," he said.

The trial will resume on Monday.

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