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John Lizanec unmasked: Warning signs, whining and paranoia of Tayside wife killer

An exclusive report on how murderous husband John Lizanec ended his wife Michelle's new-found happiness in the most brutal way.

Murderer John Lizanec.
Murderer John Lizanec.

When Michelle Lizanec finally got away from her husband after years of emotional abuse and psychological torture, she was the happiest she had been for years.

The 44-year-old spent her first days of freedom planning days out and shopping trips, where she could buy clothes she actually wanted to wear – instead of those her domineering husband dictated to her.

But escape was not easy.

As she and her youngest daughter Ebony worked in secret to secure a new home in Scone, Michelle set up a hidden email account to contact Perthshire Women’s Aid, a charity that advises and supports victims of domestic abuse.

One early exchange spoke volumes about Michelle’s selfless and compassionate nature.

John Lizanec arrives for trial
Murderer John Lizanec arrives for trial at Edinburgh High Court.

And it revealed she didn’t realise how much danger she was in.

She told the Perth-based team “I think I’m being emotionally abused,” and asked for some advice.

She added: “But please only do so once you have helped ladies who are in a much worse situation than me.”

About 16 months later – just weeks after finally winning her freedom – Michelle was dead, her body soaked in blood and “jammed” into the bottom of an airing cupboard.

The man responsible was her husband of nearly 30 years, who described his victim to police as “his soulmate, the love of my life”.


The couple met as teenagers in the early 90s, around the same time Lizanec served for two years with the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).

They had three children, Sophie, Ebony and Jon, and lived in Cupar, Dundee, Perth, Abernethy and Bridge of Earn, before moving to Inchture in 2020.

Ebony, 27, described the atmosphere at home as “extremely toxic,” while her younger brother Jon told police things got even worse about a decade ago when his father was caught cheating and thrown out of the house.

“She wishes she never took him back,” 19-year-old Jon said in a video-recorded police interview.

Orchard Way, Inchture
Police outside Orchard Way, Inchture, on February 15 2021. Image: DCT Media

Throughout the relationship, Lizanec constantly belittled, bullied and browbeat his wife.

He became paranoid, desperate to know what others in the house were saying about him.

When he showered upstairs, he left the door open so he could hear his wife and his children.

Sometimes he only pretended to take a shower, so he could deliberately eavesdrop.

Father-in-law Michael Dewar would occasionally get a text from his daughter, warning him: “Don’t come round dad, he’s para.”

One of Michelle’s few friends “approved” by her husband was Donna Lyle.

“We first met in secondary school,” she said.

“But we lost touch and then got back together.”

Michelle Lizanec
Michelle Lizanec

Ms Lyle, 47, said: “Most of the time that I saw Michelle, John was present.

“There wasn’t many times I saw her on her own.

“Sometimes it was okay if he was in a different room because then we could have a proper chat.

“But as soon as he walked in, you could feel the energy change.”

John Lizanec
Killer John Lizanec. Image: Police Scotland.

She added: “It was like she wasn’t allowed to go out herself.

“She had a good wardrobe but if she was going out with her children she would have to dress down.

“If she was going out with John, she would have to dress up to the nines.

“John would choose her clothes for her.”

Secret audio

Michelle began making secret audio recordings as evidence of what she was going through.

In one short clip played to jurors, Lizanec tells his wife: “I hope you f***ing suffer and f***ing die.

“You are a f***ing b****, a f***ing evil f***ing b****.”

He is heard telling her if he catches her recording him on her phone, “I’ll shove it down your throat and choke you to death with it.”

During his consistent rants – all spoken in a disturbing matter-of-fact tone – Lizanec would casually mention murder and slitting people’s throats.

Sharon Summers at the Perthshire Women’s Aid office.

In an email to Women’s Aid worker Sharon Summers, Michelle revealed her husband asked his son over breakfast: “Why am I so hated?”

Lizanec told Jon he would speak to his mum later, adding: “I’m going to murder two people.”

Ms Summers replied, concerned about the mention of murder.

Michelle wrote back: “It’s okay. It’s nothing new. This is a normal thing for him to say.”

She had been communicating in secret with Women’s Aid since May 2020, mostly used her hidden email account.

Michelle would also phone occasionally but only when she was out of the house walking her dogs.

It was the only time she was allowed out on her own and, even then, Lizanec would watch her from the window.

The escape plan

Lizanec repeatedly blamed his youngest daughter Ebony for the collapse of his marriage.

She had left home at 15 and went on to study fashion at Glasgow University.

She returned to her parents at Orchard Way, Inchture, following a bad car crash.

It was Ebony who helped her mum escape by securing a new home at Scone, while keeping their plan hidden from Lizanec.

The new house was officially for herself but secretly for her mother.

In her last few months with her husband, Michelle began getting her confidence back.

Perthshire Women’s Aid campaign against violence.

She was encouraged by Women’s Aid to “grey rock” her husband – effectively treat him and talk to him like he nothing, like a lump of grey rock.

Michelle was delighted with the results and began feeling, for the first time, she was in charge.

Lizanec’s reaction to his wife leaving him was laid bare in a series of text messages to his mother.

He told 68-year-old Frances Flood how he had “begged” and “got his knees” to stop his wife going.

As he saw it, he was trying to “save my family,” but his wife was “so determined on the relationship destruction.”

In the early hours of February 13 2021 – the day Michelle was murdered – Lizanec texted his mum that he had been “left screaming in the dark” alone at the Inchture house.

He added: “I want blood for this s***.”

And then: “I don’t give a f*** who’s involved, I want them dead.”

The final day

Michelle was “elated” to start her new life in Scone with Ebony and Jon.

Her husband moved in with oldest daughter Sophie, 28, and her partner at Elie, near St Andrews.

As Ebony put it, he “played the suicide card” and “guilt-tripped her into taking him in”.

On the afternoon of February 13 2021, Michelle drove to Sophie’s house to deliver laundry because her washing machine was broken.

There were awkward exchanges between her and Lizanec, before the three decided to go shopping for Valentine’s gifts at B&M in Leven.

John, Michelle and daughter Sophie visited the B&M store in Leven to buy Valentine’s gifts.

In CCTV from the store, Lizanec can be seen pleading with his wife to take him back.

Michelle quietly tells him no.

They go for a McDonald’s before returning to Sophie’s house.

Lizanec then badgers his wife to drive him back to Inchture, which she eventually agrees to.

“He would have guilt tripped her into giving him a lift,” said Jon.

He was at the house in Scone with sister Ebony on the evening of February 13.

At 9.11pm, Lizanec texted his son: “Me and mum going to shoot through for fuel cos I’ve run out.”

But the gas meter at his Inchture home was more than £100 in credit.

Police believe he sent this text after murdering Michelle “to give himself more time”.

“When I got that text I was worried, because it would usually be my mum who sends messages,” Jon said.

He replied to his dad: “Is mum on her way home?”

There was no response.

By this point, the siblings became very concerned. It was not like their mother not to respond to messages.

Considering reporting their mum missing, Ebony called 101 for some advice.

Police agreed to check out the house at Orchard Way.

Police outside Orchard Way, Inchture, on February 15 2021.

Ebony said: “They said the lights were on, but no one answered the door.

“I thought it was extremely weird, because he (Lizanec) has OCD and he would never leave the lights on.

“I asked them to go back and break down the door if they had to, because I knew something was wrong.”

Police Sergeant John McDade and other officers went back to the house just before 3am.

They used a metal battering ram to get inside and Sgt McDade instinctively went to a ground floor bathroom, while others checked upstairs.

He opened an airing cupboard door and saw Michelle “jammed” under the bottom shelf, with her head forward and knees pulled up to her chest.

At Dundee Police HQ, PC Neil Wilkie was typing the last line of Michelle’s missing person report when he heard over the radio she had been found dead.

Officers went to Sophie’s house to deliver the awful news. She, in turn, contacted Ebony and Jon.

“It was a big fright,” said Jon. “But we were all kind of expecting it.

“We had a gut feeling this would happen.”

The aftermath

After murdering his wife with a boxcutter knife, Lizanec stashed her body in the cupboard and ripped off his blood-soaked clothes.

As the “love of his life” lay lifeless on the floor of the closet, he got some plasters and tended to a tiny cut on his arm.

He grabbed some clothes from an airer, a pair of brand new trainers from upstairs and stuffed more than £1,200 cash into a black holdall.

He then drove his wife’s car to Asda at Milton of Craigie, where he somehow got rid of her mobile phone. It was never recovered.

Asda at Milton of Craigie in Dundee. Image: Kris Miller/DCT Media

Jurors watched CCTV of the man who told them he was in shock after witnessing – he claimed – his wife killing herself, strolling round the shop and buying cigarettes, a lighter and an £8 belt.

Lizanec then went to his mum’s bungalow in Balunie Street, Dundee.

He told her he had done a “bad thing” and then admitted that he had harmed Michelle.

Mum Frances Flood said she didn’t want to pry and the next morning, as armed police surrounded her house, she made him “a big breakfast”.

Police descended on John Lizanec’s mum’s house in Balunie Street, Dundee.

For the next 12 hours, Lizanec paced around the house with a knife at his throat, while he and his mum spoke to police through the letter box.

At one point, Mrs Flood, sneaked a note to police at the back door, suggesting they might want to get an ambulance.

Forensic teams investigating the Balunie Street property.

She also texted a pal: “My house is surrounded by police and John is here holding a knife OMG.”

Lizanec eventually gave himself up just before 9pm and he was taken to the Dundee police station.

When asked at the charge bar if there was anyone he wanted to phone, he said: “A psychiatrist?”

Whinging killer

Lizanec whinged to police as they prepared to interview him as a suspect in his wife’s murder.

“It’s cold,” he told Detective Constable Alan Bow. “I’m colder than I’ve ever been in my life.

“I’ve had to spend a night on the thinnest mattress and I’m getting food portions I wouldn’t give to a six-month old child.”

Lizanec also complained the Adidas trainers he was wearing had been seized by police.

“They were brand new,” he grumbled. “Straight out of the box.”

John Lizanec was interviewed at Dundee Police Station.

Later in the four-hour interview, Lizanec is shown a photo of his wife lying dead on his bathroom floor with a horrific wound to her neck.

He declines to comment when DC Bow tells him how her body was found.

“I’ve just mentioned that your wife has been found stuffed in a cupboard,” the detective told him. “And you seem more concerned about your trainers.”

After a two-week trial at Edinburgh High Court, jurors unanimously found Lizanec guilty of murder, attempting to defeat the ends of justice and a campaign of domestic abuse that spanned nearly two years.

He was ordered to spend at least 24 years behind bars and told he may never be released.

Sentencing him to life imprisonment, Lord Fairley said: “I have watched you carefully throughout this trial and the only person who you feel any sorrow or remorse for is yourself.”

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