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BT treasurer ‘suffered a mental breakdown brought on by the coronavirus lockdown’

BT treasurer ‘suffered a mental breakdown brought on by the coronavirus lockdown’

Pratibha walia
Police were quizzing a pensioner last night after the wife of a senior BT executive (pictured, Les and Suzanne Winnister) was found battered to death in her £1.6million home

High-flying BT treasurer ‘suffered a mental breakdown brought on by the coronavirus lockdown’ before his wife was found battered to death at their £1.6m home

  • Suzanne Winnister, 66, was discovered dead with severe head and neck injuries 
  • She had confided in friends that her husband had suffered a mental breakdown 
  • Husband Les, allegedly suffered breakdown because of Covid-19 lockdown 

Police were quizzing a pensioner last night after the wife of a senior BT executive was found battered to death in her £1.6million home.

Suzanne Winnister, 66, was discovered with severe head and neck injuries when police were called to her gated mock-Tudor property on Tuesday.

Just weeks earlier, the retired bank worker had confided in friends that Les, her husband of 42 years, had allegedly suffered a mental breakdown brought on by the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Police were quizzing a pensioner last night after the wife of a senior BT executive (pictured, Les and Suzanne Winnister) was found battered to death in her £1.6million home

Police were quizzing a pensioner last night after the wife of a senior BT executive (pictured, Les and Suzanne Winnister) was found battered to death in her £1.6million home

The high-flying executive has made public appearances with leading City figures for at least 15 years in his role as treasurer for the telecoms giant and he is currently registered as a director of BT’s property and investment arms. But Mrs Winnister had spoken of seeing his mental health deteriorate since March.

Friends said she had sought help for her husband, who had been seeing a doctor and had handed in his notice at work. He had started planning for his retirement but feared he would miss work too much.

Yesterday, neighbours said Mr Winnister was seen wandering from his home in a leafy cul-de-sac towards the centre of Bexley village in south-east London on Tuesday. 

Mrs Winnister’s body was found at 9.15pm by the partner of one of her nieces. He drove to the address after Mrs Winnister, who did not have any children, failed to respond to repeated attempts to contact her.

Suzanne Winnister, 66, was discovered with severe head and neck injuries when police were called to her gated mock-Tudor property on Tuesday

Suzanne Winnister, 66, was discovered with severe head and neck injuries when police were called to her gated mock-Tudor property on Tuesday

Police have arrested a 68-year-old man who was said to be ‘known’ to the victim on suspicion of murder.

One friend said: ‘From what she told me, Les was seeing a doctor. He had had some sort of breakdown. It had been going on since lockdown. I think it may have been brought on by that. She wanted to help Les through it – she would never have left him.’

Mrs Winnister’s best friend, retired pub boss Lynda Idle, described her as the ‘nicest person you could ever meet’.

Mrs Idle said: ‘Suzanne was a gentle, giving person. If she could do something for you, she would. I think the last time I spoke to her was the day she died.

Just weeks earlier, the retired bank worker had confided in friends that Les (left), her husband of 42 years, had allegedly suffered a mental breakdown brought on by the Covid-19 lockdown

Just weeks earlier, the retired bank worker had confided in friends that Les (left), her husband of 42 years, had allegedly suffered a mental breakdown brought on by the Covid-19 lockdown

‘It’s very hard to think about her at the moment. She didn’t deserve this. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It doesn’t seem real.’

Neighbours of the Winnisters’ £800,000 former home nearby in Bexley, which the couple still own, said Mr Winnister had been under a lot of stress at work.

Retired sports marketing chief Perry Smith said: ‘Les was a really nice guy and would work long hours. The job caused him a lot of stress. When he’d come home, you’d see he was drained.

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‘Les and Sue were just a very nice, respectful and friendly couple. She was short but had quite a dominant personality – the tough one out of them. She was the boss. It’s so tragic what’s happened – it’s such a shock.

Police have arrested a 68-year-old man who was said to be 'known' to the victim on suspicion of murder. Pictured: The couple's home in Bexley village, south-east London

Police have arrested a 68-year-old man who was said to be ‘known’ to the victim on suspicion of murder. Pictured: The couple’s home in Bexley village, south-east London

‘I last saw Les around a month ago. I asked him how he was and he said, ‘I’m very well, thanks’.’

Locals said Mrs Winnister, who retired some years ago from City-based bank Standard Chartered, was ‘always looking out for others’.

A BT spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts are with the family at this tragic time. As this is a live police investigation, it would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment.’


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