Paula Leeson and Donald McPherson
Photo by PA Media/CPS

Family Seeks Justice in Civil Court After Man Acquitted of Murdering Wealthy Wife

Donald McPherson, a 50-year-old convicted fraudster, was cleared of murdering his wife, Paula Leeson, but her family is now taking civil action against him, seeking to prove he was responsible for her death. McPherson had been accused of planning to kill Leeson ‘almost the minute’ he met her, according to statements made in court.

Despite being found not guilty in a criminal trial due to insufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, McPherson faces renewed allegations in the Manchester Civil Courts of Justice. The Leeson family aims to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that McPherson unlawfully killed her by rendering her unconscious and then drowning her in a pool during a vacation in Denmark. If successful, McPherson would be barred from inheriting any part of Leeson’s £4.4 million estate, via BBC.

Throughout the court proceedings, it was revealed that McPherson had secretly taken out life insurance policies on his wife totaling £3.5 million prior to her untimely death. “The defendant is a morally corrupt individual and that dishonesty permeates every aspect of this case,” stated Lesley Anderson KC, the barrister representing the Leeson family. Anderson highlighted the rapid pace at which McPherson arranged these policies, suggesting a premeditated plan to benefit from Leeson’s death.

The circumstances of the death itself complicate McPherson’s narrative of a tragic accident. Paula Leeson, a healthy 47-year-old and mother, drowned in a pool that was under four feet deep, despite being able to swim. This led to speculation that she must have been incapacitated before entering the water.

The couple’s marriage began with a lavish ceremony in 2014 after meeting a year prior. McPherson, born Alexander James Lang in New Zealand and previously jailed for a massive bank fraud in Germany, had concealed his past from Leeson by claiming to be an orphan and a property developer. Meanwhile, Leeson managed part of her family’s successful business in Sale, Greater Manchester.

Adding to the intrigue, McPherson has a history of deceit, having changed his name multiple times and being described in court as a “Walter Mitty” character with convictions in multiple countries. Following his wife’s death, McPherson was quick to transfer large sums from her accounts to address his debts and disposed of her belongings.

While McPherson’s legal team suggested that Leeson’s injuries might have resulted from rescue attempts, the pathologists could not conclusively determine her cause of death. McPherson, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, was not present at the civil hearing and is reportedly residing in the South Pacific. A ruling on the Leeson family’s civil claim is expected later this year.

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