A retired firefighter strangled his wife after being told she was leaving him for his best friend of 30 years, a court heard.

Margaret Wathen was killed by her husband Michael just hours after they had visited a relationship counsellor.

The couple, who were married for 44 years and have two children, were in the bedroom when she phoned Alan Thompson, an ex-firefighter who had worked with Wathen. She told Mr Thompson to collect her from the marital home in Brier Mill Road, Halesowen, so she could join him.

Wathen, aged 67, stood up, grabbed her by the throat and pulled her on to their bed before strangling her, Mr Gareth Evans, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Wathen told police the call was “like a red rag to a bull” and that he “went insane”, the court heard.

The jury were played a recording of Wathen calling the police minutes after strangling his 63 year old, wife. He told the operator: “I have just murdered my wife.” When asked why, he said: “Because she was going to leave me.”

Mr Thompson and his wife, June, had gone on holidays with Margaret and Michael Wathen for the last 20 years and were seen as best friends, he said.

But after Mrs Thompson became seriously ill with cancer in January last year, Mrs Wathen and Mr Thompson became “more than just friends”, Mr Evans told the jury.

When Mrs Thompson died 12 months later, the relationship went further and Mrs Wathen, known by her middle name of Heather, began talking about leaving her husband.

While Wathen and his wife were on holiday after Mrs Thompson had died, she admitted to him that she loved Mr Thompson.

In opening the trial Mr Evans told the jury: “He killed her because of her infidelity and he didn’t want anyone else to have her. He was a jealous man and killed her in temper.”

The court heard that Wathen admits the manslaughter of his wife, who worked in the fire service’s control room, but denies murdering her.

Mr Evans told the jury they must decide whether Wathen intended to kill her, and said the prosecution will argue that he did.

The trial continues.

Read the full story as reported by Express & Star.