A PEEBLES pastry heiress helped a “manipulative monster” to cover up the murder of his invalid wife because she was besotted with him.
Rita Heyster, 57, was the latest of a succession of women to fall for the charms of philandering Harry Jarvis.
He persuaded her to live in a shed in the garden of his West Lothian home – in conditions no better than a dog in a kennel, a court heard – awaiting the death of his wife, Carol, 47.
The bizarre arrangement was described by daughter Kimberley Jarvis, 20, as “weird and creepy”.
Then Heyster – who lived in Coldstream as a child after being adopted by Jus-Rol founder Tommy Forsyth – helped dump the body under the floorboards of the Jarvis home in Bathgate, and went on the run with Jarvis, 61.
A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh last week took an hour to find her guilty, unanimously, of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.
The trial heard that Jarvis planned to carve out a new life for himself, using cash which he believed Heyster had acquired from her wealthy family.
The Jus-Rol brand made a fortune, the court heard, and Jarvis boasted to a local barmaid she had money, a car, and a big house and that he was going to bleed her white.
Grimsby-born Jarvis, a bottle-of-whisky-a-day man, had given up working as an electronics engineer to act as carer for his sickly wife – and sponge off her benefits. He scrounged cash for drink and cigarettes from their four children.
Jarvis also has a record which includes fraud and embezzlement.
He also embarked on a series of flings with women he contacted, using the internet.
Jarvis always returned to Carol, who appeared to forgive him. Witnesses said she too was “besotted.”
Mr Jarvis last conquest was Heyster. Their meeting in April 2008 began a chain of events which resulted in a life sentence for Jarvis and an order that he should serve at least 15 years before he can apply for parole.
Advocate depute Gary Allan QC, prosecuting, said it must be easy to look at Heyster in the dock and feel sympathy.
“You might think she was vulnerable. You might think she was in the hands of a manipulative monster,” he told jurors.
Jarvis’s murder trial, in February, could not be reported at the time, for legal reasons, but the details began to emerge during evidence in Heyster’s trial.
Carol Jarvis had a number of medical difficulties, including fibromyalgia, causing muscle pains which sometimes left her virtually bed-ridden. Latterly medics had begun to suspect she might be suffering from epilepsy.
Her worried daughter called in police when Carol apparently disappeared and the Jarvis children did not believe their father’s shifting stories that she had taken a trip to Dundee or gone into respite care.
Two days later – on September 16, 2009 – Carol’s decomposing body, taped up in a duvet, was found among rubbish and bric-a-brac in her basement.
Pathologists were unable to say how Carol died, but could find nothing to suggest the death might be natural.
Mr Jarvis and Heyster headed for Perth and were arrested after attempting to leave a guest house without paying.
The pair were brought back to Edinburgh where detectives began to question them about Carol. Harry Jarvis’s reply was a rambling account of his wife dying during a kinky sex game.
Murder charges followed. Jarvis was found guilty. Heyster was cleared of murder during her trial when judge Lord Brailsford ruled there was not enough evidence to convict her.
But the trial had heard that Carol’s DNA was found on her finger-nails. Heyster’s DNA was found on a reel of tape, said to have been used to bundle up the body.
In another bizarre episode, police searching the Jarvis home found Heyster hiding under a bed – and Mr Jarvis claimed that she was his wife.
PC Lynn Hodgson, who knew the couple, challenged: “I have met your wife before. That is not Carol. Why are you telling me lies?”
Throughout her trial, Heyster exercised her right to silence and did not give evidence.
But the trial saw a letter signed “Your Marguarita”. Heyster wrote: “My darling, I know I am being a pain but on second thoughts I would love a bath and for you to wash my hair… I am so in love with you and just want to be with you. I so need you to hold me. I can’t stop shaking.”
The trial also saw a series of damning notes scrawled by Jarvis and signed off with “xxx” kisses. In one he told Heyster: “Carol is dying as I write.”
Judge Lord Brailsford called for background reports before sentencing first offender Heyster next month.