22 YEARS ago the cliff tops near Freshwater East in Pembrokeshire were a hive of activity.
On April 14, 1999, a search and rescue operation involving both RAF and police helicopters, a police launch, dog handlers and coastguards was in full flow.
Emergency services were scouring the area around Trewent Point for any sign of 47-year-old deputy headmistress Ann Day and the family dog, a black Labrador called Jess, who, according to her teacher-husband Dennis, 55, failed to return to the family home in Lamphey after taking their dog for a walk along the clifftops, which are some of the tallest cliffs on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
Dennis and Ann Day had been married for 24 years and had three boys together, Dennis told the couple’s youngest teenage son that he was worried that their mother had not returned from the cliffs before waiting an hour and a half to call police.
90 long minutes later, Dennis informed the police who, alongside other emergency services, descended on the area believing that Ann could have slipped or fallen from the coastal path and might be in need of assistance.
Emergency services searched that stretch of coast by land, air and sea but found no sign of Ann or the dog.
At first it seemed like a tragic accident had happened to Ann, but just two days later the whole story would change.
THE PLOT THICKENS
After being questioned by police, Dennis admitted that he HAD been on the clifftop with his wife. He told police that the family dog had jumped excitedly at Ann which had resulted in the both of them falling 70ft from the cliffs near Freshwater East and onto rocks below.
Day, who was a Humanities teacher at Bush Comprehensive School at the time, told police he made the first version of events up because he panicked. This new information resulted in Dennis Day being charged with murder.
Ann’s skeletal remains were discovered two months after her disappearance when her body washed up on Manorbier Beach.
Mr. Day would stick to his new version of events for eight months and through multiple police interviews until, just four weeks before his murder trial, his story would change one more shocking time.
A DEADLY AFFAIR
A month before his murder trial was scheduled to start, Dennis Day opened up to police about how his unfaithful wife’s continued infidelity with another teacher at Fenton Primary School, Haverfordwest, had driven the pair to argue.
Ann’s affair was, according to Mr. Day, public knowledge in the area and she seemed unwilling to call-an-end to her extra-marital relationship with fellow teacher Wayne Davies; he also told police that Ann had filed for divorce.
Describing his 24-year marriage to Ann as a “shell”, Day, a former international discus thrower, told police that his wife had spent the afternoon before her death with her lover before suggesting a clifftop walk with her husband to “clear the air” about their upcoming divorce.
It was during this intense discussion, during which Ann was adamant about going through with the divorce that, according to Day, the family dog knocked Ann to the ground.
Day said this caused him to laugh at her and that this made Ann come at him in an “angry mood”, Day then said he instinctively pushed her backwards which caused her to fall 70ft from the clifftop to the rocks below dragging the family dog with her.
Instead of alerting emergency services, Day panicked and tried to deceive police, his family, colleagues and friends.
During Day’s trial at Swansea Crown Court, Mrs. Days affair was described as “passionate, flourishing and continuing, with no sign of it coming to an end,”
AT THE TRIAL
Dennis Day denied the murder charge at his trial, which took place in January 2000, but admitted manslaughter which the Crown accepted.
The court was told the victim’s family, as well as the couple’s three teenage sons, were fully supporting Day and had backed the prosecution decision not to proceed with the murder charge.
Prosecuting barrister Leighton Davies QC, said the Crown could not definitively prove murder.
“There was no history of violence between them. Indeed the divorce petition contains no allegations on the part of the deceased of any violence.
“There is no forensic or scientific evidence of any kind which indicates that the defendant in the case intended foul play or injuries to the deceased prior to her disappearance.
“There are indications in the evidence that it was not a planned killing and the deceased was not abducted.”
Defence barrister John Charles Rees QC, said: “He did not intend, or foresee, such consequences.”
“Up until 2 years ago they were almost the perfect family. All that changed when Wayne Davies came into their lives and caught Mrs Day at a vulnerable time in her life.”
Mr. Rees went on to say that Day realised that he should have sought help when his wife fell over the cliff and that he would have to live with that for the rest of his life.
Day was found guilty of manslaughter but his sentencing was adjourned pending probation reports, and Day, who had spent five months in jail, was bailed to live with his late wife’s mother, Joan Bingham, a teacher of Humanities at Pembroke School.
At Day’s sentencing, Mr Justice Turner told Day he had misled his sons, relations, friends and colleagues about what really happened before his wife’s death. He still failed to show true remorse.
“For almost nine months you have denied your involvement. You spun a fanciful tale. For a person of your intelligence and apparent honesty that is surprising.
“Your sons are the true victims. Once again they will have to learn the true circumstances before they can give vent to the natural feelings to grieve that will finally help them get over the death of their mother.”
Mr Justice Turner told Day that by pleading guilty to manslaughter, he had admitted his criminal conduct in causing his wife’s fall.
“It requires little imagination to understand the utter folly of your actions in pushing your wife and causing her to lose her balance near that precipitous cliff edge.”
Day was then sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.