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The burned out car in which Claire Morris died
DEADLY conman Malcolm Webster thought for almost 17 years that he had got away with the perfect murder.

He was so sure of himself, he tried to kill his second wife in exactly the same way he murdered his first - a staged fireball crash.

His murder of first wife Claire Morris in 1994 netted him £200,000 and he would have gained £500,000 if he succeeded in killing second wife Felicity Drumm.

But yesterday the monster who charmed a string of women was facing life in jail after his web of deceit finally unraveled.

A jury took less than four hours to find the former nurse guilty of murder, attempted murder and a string of other charges, including trying to commit bigamy, fraud and fire-raising.

To the women he wooed around the world, 52-year-old Webster seemed the perfect English gentleman - in the words of one former conquest almost "too good to be true".

In fact, his life was founded on lies and ruthless scheming to get the high life he craved.

And the colleagues who nicknamed him Dr Death - because he was studying for a qualification in euthanasia - could not have known how close to the truth they were.

Yesterday, DCI Phil Chapman, who led the reopened probe into the 1994 murder of Webster's first wife, Claire Morris, in Aberdeenshire, said: "Malcolm Webster's actions display a complete contempt for human life, apparently fueled by an insatiable appetite for wealth.

"For 17 years, it was the perfect murder. He got away with it for 17 years, because he made it look like an accident.

"A skilled conman, his desire for the trappings of wealth to fund his affluent lifestyle led him to routinely betray those who placed their trust and faith in him.

"He peddled his lies across different continents believing his chilling and callous crimes would go undetected."

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Webster with new wife Claire
During his four-month trial - the longest ever for a single accused in Scotland - the jury heard how he had drugged Claire before staging the fatal crash just eight months after they wed.

She burned to death on a lonely country road near Kingoodie, Aberdeenshire - as her husband callously told the emergency services there had been no one in the car with him.

Amazingly, the death was ruled an accident and Webster netted more than £200,000 in life insurance payments.

After the murder, Webster squandered his payout in just six months. He splashed out on a yacht, a Land Rover Discovery, hi-fi equipment, computers and designer clothes - and presents to impress the new women in his life.

And in 1999, after moving to New Zealand, he found another bride he hoped would make his fortune.

Believing no one would ever make the link to his first wife's death on the other side of the world, he staged a copycat crash.

He would have got away with £500,000 but second wife Felicity Drumm survived the crash in Auckland.

During the trial, Felicity, 50, told the court of a chilling confrontation with Webster after the crash.

She said: "I challenged him. I said it was quite clear his intention had been to kill me.

"He said I would have died happy. I had never been happier. He had given me love, marriage and a child."

Webster was also convicted of devising a scam to bigamously marry wealthy colleague Simone Banarjee in a bid to get his hands on her fortune.

Detectives in Oban, Argyll, learned of his past and feared that operating theater manager Simone would become his next victim.

They began to scrutinize his past and put him under surveillance to prevent him going ahead with what they believed was his plan - to murder her during a honeymoon transatlantic sailing trip.

Webster's crimes also included endangering the life of Felicity and his unborn son by drugging her and willful fire-raising.

And the court was told the cheating charmer faked terminal leukemia and told his family and loved ones he was undergoing aggressive treatment.

But his downfall began when Jane Drumm, Felicity's sister, had a chance meeting with a police officer.

On a business trip to the UK in June 2006, Jane, the director of a domestic violence prevention organization in New Zealand, told the officer she feared Webster had tried to kill her sister - and had murdered his first wife in Scotland.

The cop put her in touch with Grampian Police and DCI Chapman said they were moved by the "striking similarity" between the two cases.

They needed new evidence, though, to reopen the case. And they found it when new toxicology techniques allowed them to show Claire's liver contained traces of drugs.

Analysis of Felicity's hair also showed that he had been doping her with sedatives, even when she was pregnant.

Yesterday, Webster shook his head as the jury's verdicts - finding him guilty of seven charges spanning a 16-year period - were read out.

He had maintained his lies to the end, still insisting Claire's death crash had been an accident.

And he claimed that he had only crashed the car in which he and Felicity were traveling to avoid a bank appointment - which would have revealed he had cleaned out her accounts.

The jury's verdicts were all unanimous apart from the charges relating to Felicity and Simone - which were by a majority verdict. Webster will be sentenced in July.

Outside the court, Claire's brother welcomed the verdict. Peter Morris said: "There is now justice for Claire. The guilty verdict of murder has proven that Malcolm Webster is a wicked murderer.

"I feel today is a good day as the psychological sadism over me and my family and many other people is now broken. As the truth came out, it broke the web of deception Malcolm Webster had created around him."

DCI Chapman paid tribute to the "dignity and courage" shown by Peter and by Claire's mother Elizabeth during the lengthy investigation.

The detective said: "In 2008, I first met Claire's family and had to tell them that we believed Claire's death 14 years before was not a tragic accident, but a premeditated and planned murder, committed by her husband, the man to whom she had pledged her life.

"This was clearly a devastating revelation, which generated many questions and a range of traumatic emotions for them."

DCI Chapman also paid tribute to Felicity and her family, whose "collective determination and resolve to bring Malcolm Webster to justice can only be commended".

He said: "Their lives have been blighted since February 19, 1999, when the web of lies spun by Malcolm Webster began to unravel.

"Indeed, it was the family's pursuit of Malcolm Webster which led us to reconsider the circumstances surrounding Claire's death."

Lindsey Miller, head of the Crown Office's Serious and Organised Crime Division, said: "This was a hugely complex case, involving hundreds of witnesses, productions and financial documentary evidence stretching over a 14-year period.

"Webster was a calculating criminal who wove a web of lies and deceit around people who entered his life in good faith."

Prosecutor Derek Ogg QC described the case, which started on February 1, as a "1000-piece jigsaw".

In his closing speech, Mr Ogg described Webster as a "brilliant criminal genius" and said his conviction would make him "one of the most notorious murderers of modern times".

The top QC later said: "If ever the phrase 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' applied to anyone, it applied to Malcolm Webster.

"I think if you read this in a book, you would find it too far-fetched."

TWO DECADES OF DECEPTION AND DEATH

SEPTEMBER 3, 1993

Malcolm Webster marries Claire Morris at King's College Chapel, Aberdeen.

MAY 27/28, 1994

Webster deliberately crashes his Daihatsu 4x4 with his drugged-up wife unconscious in the front seat. Claire, 32, dies after he sets fire to the vehicle.

In the months that follow, the killer collects more than £208,000 in life insurance payouts.

1995 Webster moves to Saudi Arabia.

May 1996 Webster embarks on a relationship with Felicity Drumm while living in the Gulf.

APRIL 26, 1997

Webster marries Felicity at St Vincent's Church, Auckland, New Zealand.

September 1997 He deliberately sets fire to furniture in his Scottish home at Easter Letter Cottage, Lyne of Skene, Aberdeenshire.

He later received an insurance cheque for £68,000.

February 10, 1999 He deliberately sets fire to an armchair at his New Zealand home, risking the life of his wife and nine-month-old son Edward.

February 12, 1999 Webster drives his car down a motorway embankment with his wife in the front seat.

She survives but he would have collected more than £500,000 in insurance money if his murder plot had succeeded.

December 2005 Webster, now living in Oban, starts a new relationship with Simone Banarjee. The pair met the previous year while working at Lorn & Islands Hospital. The same month, he tells Simone he is terminally ill with leukaemia.

February 2006 Simone changes her will to leave her entire estate to Webster.

SEPTEMBER 2006

The couple become engaged, despite Webster still being married to Felicity.

JANUARY 2008

Police visit the hospital to issue Simone with a warning that she could be in danger. Until this point, she did not know Webster had a wife and a son in New Zealand.

FEBRUARY 2009

Webster is arrested and charged with the murder of Claire Morris and the attempted murder of Felicity Drumm.

FEBRUARY 1, 2011

Webster goes on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

MAY 19, 2011

A jury takes less than four hours to find Webster guilty