Bass player ‘beat Leeds artist to death on their wedding anniversary in fit of temper’

Natalia Strelchenko pictured on one of her concert programmes
Natalia Strelchenko pictured on one of her concert programmes

A TALENTED pianist and former Leeds artist was strangled and beaten to death in a loss of temper by her musician husband, a jury has heard.

Norwegian double bass player John Martin, 48, was said to have been jealous of Russian-born Natalia Strelchenko, 38, because her career had taken off while his had not.

Ms Strelchenko, also known by the surname Strelle, was found with head and neck injuries at their home in Newton, Heath, Manchester, last August, on the couple’s second wedding anniversary.

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.”

Describing her injuries, he said: “The blows inflicted upon Natalia Strelle by this defendant were of such severe force and of such number that her central and left-sided facial bones were left free floating from the rest of her skull.

“Her jawbone was snapped in half and indeed, in addition to that, other parts of her skull were severely fractured

“Even though she was rushed to hospital soon after that assault, she was declared dead about a hour after.”

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

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

Ms Strelchenko, who had been artist in residence at Leeds College of Art and a research fellow at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. had played the piano from the age of eight and went on to gain entry to the prestigious St Petersburg State Conservatory in her homeland, the jury was told. At the “peak of her powers” she performed in concerts with a full orchestra.

She moved to Manchester in 2009 following the breakdown of her first marriage three years earlier, before she met the defendant a year later.

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

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.

In February 2013, officers attended a former address in Newton Heath when they were arguing.

Nine months later, police were called to their home in Culcheth Lane - scene of the alleged murder on August 30 last year - when Martin tried to force his way through the front door of the property after a row on the phone.

In early August last year, the defendant threw Ms Strelchenko out of the house in anger, the jury was told, because he was not prepared to pay her mobile phone bill any longer.

Following that incident, Martin texted his wife’s music publicist in which he said: “She drives me crazy and must be stopped when it happens.”

Ms Strelchenko temporarily moved back in three days before her death ahead of starting a job in France - where she had a second home - the following month.