World

Concert pianist 'strangled and beaten to death' by husband who was jealous of her success, court hears

She was a renowned musician who first took to the piano at the age of eight and would make her debut at just 12-years-old with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra.

John Martin, right, has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of his wife Natalia Strelchenko.
John Martin, right, has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of his wife Natalia Strelchenko. Photo: Telegraph, London

Natalia Strelchenko went on to play to venues worldwide, including the Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Franzosische Dom in Berlin.

But the talented pianist's success made her husband - a Norwegian double bass player - jealous, because her career had taken off in a way his had not, a court heard yesterday.

Leo Strelle, now 13, son of murdered Russia pianist Natalia Strelchenko.
Leo Strelle, now 13, son of murdered Russia pianist Natalia Strelchenko. Photo: leostrelle.com

John Martin, 48, is accused of strangling and beating Ms Strelchenko to death on their second wedding anniversary.

Concert pianist Ms Strelchenko, 38, also known by the surname Strelle was found with head and neck injuries at their home in Newton Heath, Manchester, last August. She was rushed to hospital, but declared dead about an hour after arriving.

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Martin denies the murder, or the manslaughter, of his wife.

Opening the case at Manchester Crown Court, Rob Hall said: "This is quite simply a case of anger. Pure and simple anger.

"This defendant was not getting what he wanted and reached a point where he lost his temper in a very dramatic fashion."

Ms Strelchenko had complained of her husband's controlling behaviour and jealousy, Mr Hall, said.

The couple had a tumultuous relationship with arguments over their finances and the cleanliness of their home, jurors were told.

On one occasion, Martin was said to have thrown his wife out of the house in anger because he did not want to pay her mobile phone bill any longer.

Ms Strelchenko moved to Manchester in 2009, following the breakdown of her first marriage three years earlier, and met the defendant a year later.

The pair soon embarked on a romantic relationship, but it was one which was "marked with tensions", Mr Hall said.

The prosecutor said: "She complained that the defendant controlled her. He was very jealous if she was out without him ... jealousy made worse by the fact that, to all intents and purposes, her career had taken off while his had not.

"They would also argue regularly about such matters as financial affairs and who should keep the house clean."

He said the tensions would at times reach "quite a high level" and on occasions the defendant would physically restrain her from leaving their home.

The court heard that police had been called over previous arguments between the pair.

Officers were called to their home in Culcheth Lane when Martin tried to force his way through the front door of the property after a row on the phone.

After the incident over the phone bill last August, Martin texted his wife's music publicist saying: "She drives me crazy and must be stopped when it happens."

Ms Strelchenko temporarily moved back into the house three days before her death, shortly before she was due to start a job in France.

Martin was said to have become "very upset" the day before his wife's death when he discovered she had advertised the address on a property exchange website.

After a dispute about eating arrangements, Martin ended up drinking cider alone in the garden shed.

He later left the house for a couple of hours, in which time he texted a friend: "Hopeless". He sent another message which read: "I felt completely lonely all this summer".

When he eventually returned, his mood was "particularly threatening", the court heard.

A Polish violinist friend who stayed the night said she witnessed the defendant throwing Ms Strelchencko and himself down a full flight of stairs before he strangled her.

The woman ran to a neighbour's house and raised the alarm, the court heard.

When police attended Martin was in an upstairs bedroom and when arrested on suspicion of assault he repeatedly shouted: "Kill me."

Some of Ms Strelchenko's blood was found on a white double bass case in the house, the court heard.

She had suffered blows of "severe force" that left her skull fractured and snapped her jawbone in half, the prosecution said.

Martin was later re-arrested in custody at a local police station on suspicion of murder and replied: "I don't remember anything."

He went on to say: "All I remember is I woke up here."

Mr Hall said that essentially Martin's position had not changed and he maintains he has no memory of the events of August 30.

Martin has also pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a male youth who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

The trial is estimated to last up to three weeks.

The Telegraph, London