Chef Peter Wallner, who killed his wife and hid her body in a freezer in the garden shed for nearly three years, was today found guilty of her murder.

Wallner told the family and friends of Melanie Wallner that she had died suddenly from natural causes and went to great lengths to cover up the true circumstances of his crime.

But he was caught after dumping her body in a wheelie bin outside their home in Hamilton Avenue, Cobham, before fleeing the country in June 2009, sparking an international murder enquiry by Surrey Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team.

The court heard Melanie, who was 30 at the time of her death, was killed in August 2006 after Wallner inflicted a number of blows to her head. He had admitted manslaughter and prevention of a lawful and decent burial of a body but denied murder.

He claimed he hit his wife with a heavy griddle pan in self defence because she attacked him during an argument. But her body was found to be still wearing an eye mask suggesting she was asleep when Wallner attacked her.

Wallner ordered a freezer from Argos on 29 August 2006 which he put in the garden shed and used to store the body of his wife until 2009.

He told Melanie’s family and friends a series of lies to cover up the murder, claiming she had died from a brain haemorrhage or blood clot and played the part of the grieving husband, organising memorial services in her memory and flying to South Africa to deliver her ashes to her family.

The urn, which in fact contained his wedding ring and ashes from his barbeque, was buried on the family farm.

Eventually, Melanie’s body was discovered in a sleeping bag inside a wheelie bin.

After Surrey Police launched a murder enquiry, Wallner returned to the UK and was interviewed by detectives.

He claimed that he had a violent argument with his wife after they had eaten a meal together in bed having returned from a holiday in Scotland.

He said Melanie had stabbed him three times in his leg with a steak knife before attacking him with a cast iron griddle pan. He claimed he wrestled the pan off her before hitting her in the face with it.

He could offer no explanation when questioned by detectives as to why his wife’s body was discovered with an eye mask still on and a plastic bag over her head.

Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, who led the investigation, said after the verdict: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain today with the family of Melanie Wallner who were wrongly led to believe she had died from natural causes thanks to the web of lies spun by Peter Wallner.

"He added to their already immense grief by pleading not guilty to her murder and putting them through the ordeal of a trial. They have thankfully now seen justice done.

"Peter Wallner is a cold-blooded killer who brutally murdered his innocent wife and then went to extraordinary lengths to try and conceal his crime.

"He feigned grief at two memorial services and even travelled to South Africa to give Melanie’s family an urn full of fake ashes. His lack of remorse for what he did to Melanie knew no bounds and he told lie after lie in a heartless attempt to evade capture.

"I would like to pay tribute to the professionalism and expertise of the officers in my team who had to piece together the events surrounding Melanie’s death and expose Wallner’s deceit. Their tireless work ensured he was brought to justice."