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6 crucial factors that secured Perthshire wife killer John Lizanec’s conviction

We examine how Lizanec’s web of lies and attempts to cover his tracks were exposed during his nine-day murder trial.

John Lizanec's web of lies came apart in court during his trial for killing wife Michelle.
John Lizanec's web of lies came apart in court during his trial for killing wife Michelle.

Murdering husband John Lizanec has been warned he could die in jail after the callous murder of his wife Michelle at his home in Perthshire.

At his trial, the remorseless killer tried to persuade a jury he attempted to save his partner of nearly 30 years after watching her cut her own throat while standing inside an airing cupboard in his downstairs bathroom.

It took jurors just under two hours to unanimously reject his “preposterous” web of lies.

In fact, he slashed her neck before stuffing her body in the airing cupboard and fleeing to his mother’s home in Dundee.

John Lizanec prison van
John Lizanec is led from the prison van into Edinburgh High Court on the last day of his trial.

Advocate depute Shanti Macguire said there had been a “strong and compelling body of evidence against the accused”.

Here we look at the main factors that helped secure his conviction.

1 – Change of clothes

Lizanec insisted he was “in shock” after witnessing his wife taking her own life – and that is why he did not phone for an ambulance or contact any of their children.

But he still managed to rip off his blood-stained sweatshirt and jeans, place his trainers neatly on the floor in front of the cupboard where his wife’s body was hidden and then get plasters to tend to a small superficial cut on his arm.

Orchard Way, Inchture
Orchard Way, Inchture on February 14. Image: DC Thomson.

He then got a new set of trainers from upstairs and put on new clothes before driving her car to Asda at Milton of Craigie.

Jurors were shown CCTV of Lizanec at B&M in Leven earlier that day, wearing the black top and distinctive Adidas trainers later found by police in the Orchard Way house.

But surveillance camera footage from Asda that evening showed him in a whole new outfit.

Asda at Milton of Craigie in Dundee. Image: DC Thomson.

As opposed to being distraught, he was filmed strolling through the store before waiting patiently at the tobacco kiosk to buy cigarettes and a lighter.

When he goes to leave, he struggles to keep his trousers up so walks back into the store to buy an £8 belt – all while he is meant to be in a bewildering state of shock.

2 – Under-siege confessions

After murdering his wife, Lizanec drove to his mother’s house in Dundee.

He told her: “I’ve done a bad thing.”

Asked if he had hurt Michelle, he confirmed he had.

When armed police surrounded the property the next day, Lizanec spoke to friends and relatives on the phone.

He told his uncle, Ronald Gallagher, he had done “something bad.”

Armed police outside Balunie Street, Dundee, on February 14 2021. Image: DC Thomson.

When Mr Gallagher, 72, urged him to put down the knife and give himself up to police, Lizanec said he was too scared, adding: “Uncle Ronnie, I’ve done something really bad.”

Irene Perry, a friend of Lizanec’s mum Frances Flood, also spoke to him on the phone.

When she asked if he hurt Michelle, he began “wailing and kind of crying,” Ms Perry said.

He then told her: “I blacked out.”

Police Balunie Street
Police at Balunie Street after Lizanec was arrested. Image: DC Thomson.

When speaking to arresting officer Detective Constable Kirsty Watson through the letterbox, Lizanec said: “I need to face up to what I’ve done.

He added: “I was going to hand myself in to the police station but I wasn’t ready.”

3 – Prior threats

Throughout the relationship, Lizanec constantly harangued and verbally abused his wife.

He made up horrific, sexually explicit nicknames for his children.

But he also made repeated threats involving murder.

The trial heard how he had threatened to “headhunt” his family and told Michelle if she ever left him for another man he would slit his throat in front of her, and then kill her.

John Lizanec at Perth Sheriff Court two days after murdering his wife.

The threats – spoken in a matter-of-fact style – became normal for Michelle.

In an email to Perthshire Women’s Aid, she mentioned Lizanec had, over breakfast, threatened to “f*** up” her father and said he was going to “murder two people.”

When the charity’s worker raised concerns, Michelle told her: “It’s okay. It’s nothing new. This is a normal thing for him to say.”

There were also threats in texts to his mum in the early hours of February 13 2021.

Lizanec, furious his wife had finally left him, wrote he “did not want hurt to turn to revenge” but added: “I want blood for this s***.”

Michelle Lizanec
Michelle Lizanec.

As well as testimony from witnesses, the jury also heard Lizanec threaten to kill his wife in his own words.

When he thought – rightly – his wife was secretly recording him, he told her: “See if I find out you’ve hit record on that f***ing thing, I’ll shove it down your f***ing throat and choke you to death with it.”

4 – Crucifix

During his police interview, Lizanec told Detective Constable Alan Bow about a crucifix chain he “always” wore.

“I never take it off,” he said.

“Everyone knows why I wear that cross. I wear it for my granny and grandad, because they were religious.”

Asked where he got it, he said: “A shop.”

But he clammed up when police started asking why the crucifix was found underneath his dead wife’s body at the bottom of his bathroom airing cupboard.

DC Bow told Lizanec: “In more than one way, that puts you at the scene. What happened in that house?”

Lizanec replied: “No comment.”

5 – DNA on murder weapon

Jurors heard DNA matching Lizanec was found on the blood-stained murder weapon, a red and black Wilson-branded boxcutter knife.

Forensic scientist Jacqueline Sharp said the blade was found among a pile of blood-soaked clothes found on the bathroom floor.

She revealed blood on the 23mm blade was a match for his wife, or as she put it “one billion times more likely to be from Mrs Lizanec than from another female”.

Police mugshot of killer Lizanec.

She confirmed DNA from the handle had only thrown up a partial profile match, meaning it was only “13,000 times likely” to be Lizanec’s.

Lizanec attempted to explain this away by telling jurors he had tried to grab the blade from his wife as she raised it to her neck.

6 – His crocodile tears

Lizanec secured his downfall when he stepped into the witness box and came up with a frankly unbelievable account of how his wife died.

His version of events was described as “preposterous” by judge Lord Fairley.

Lizanec appeared to sob as he talked about holding his wife’s body in his arms.

With his face screwed up, he grabbed tissues and dabbed them to his eyes.

The trial was heard at Edinburgh High Court.

But it was all an act – there were no visible tears.

His twisted story could not explain how his wife ended up crammed inside a closed cupboard.

And his claims he was too much “in shock” to phone an ambulance, or call his children, were scotched by CCTV images walking calmly around an Asda supermarket just minutes later.

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