Officer, mistress had `love pact'

He hid her body after `accident' because he wanted to be buried with her, trial told

Jun 01, 2007 04:30 AM

Courts Bureau


A veteran Toronto police officer looked on "in horror" when his long-time mistress fell backwards on the stairs of his house, banged her head on the floor and died, a jury in Newmarket has been told.

Richard Wills is innocent of first-degree murder in the 2002 death of Linda Mariani, and the 25-year veteran of the force plans to testify that his "soulmate for life" died accidentally, his lawyer, Raj Napal, said in his opening address to the jury.

Then, acting "irrationally ... not like a police officer but a human being," Wills sealed her body up in a garbage bin and hid it behind a wall in his Richmond Hill house, where the remains stayed for four months before being found by police after Wills turned himself in, said Napal.

Wills hid the body because the two had a "love pact" that when they died they would be buried together, said Napal as Wills, who has since retired from the force, looked on.

In his opening address, prosecutor Jeffrey Pearson said Wills had complained to a police colleague that while he had left his wife, Mariani wouldn't leave her husband. The two had been having an affair for nearly nine years, court heard.

Among the 30 witnesses that the Crown will call will be forensic experts who opened the sealed container that had been sheathed in a plastic tarp. They also found a skipping rope wrapped three times around the neck of the 40-year-old bookkeeper. An autopsy showed she had died from a fractured skull, said Pearson.

Along with her purse, a pager and cellphone both items had the batteries removed forensic specialists also found an aluminum "Louisville Slugger" bat inside the container, said Pearson. Receipts show Wills had bought the garbage can, the tarp and caulking eight days before Mariani disappeared, said Pearson.

Soon after she disappeared, Wills "took advantage of his position as a police officer" and got officers with the Ontario Provincial Police to go to her parents' cottage in Wasaga Beach to hunt for her, said Pearson.

Pearson said the jurors will hear how Wills "lied" to the York Region police detectives who were hunting for the missing woman in a bid to "deflect the investigation away from himself and on to an innocent man," Mariani's husband of 17 years, Dominic. The couple had one son.

Wills tried to implicate Mariani's husband more than 15 times, at one point suggesting that he had poisoned his wife, said Pearson.

But in the months after her disappearance, "the evidence will show that the walls were closing in on Richard Wills," said Pearson. "It was becoming impossible to conceal the fact that he had a corpse hidden behind his wall."

When Wills surrendered to police in June 2002, they went to his house and found the container with Mariani's body at the foot of the basement stairs, said Pearson.

"After you have heard all the evidence, we are confident that you will conclude that Richard Wills struck Linda Mariani in the back of the head with the aluminum bat ... strangled her with the skipping rope until it snapped, dumped her body head first into the garbage can ... and hid it behind the false wall in his basement," said Pearson.

The trial continues today.