FORMER Coldstream woman Rita Heyster has been handed a four and a half year jail sentence for helping convicted killer Harry Jarvis conceal the murder of his wife Carol.
During her trial in July, Heyster was cleared of murder but a jury found her guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by helping dump Mrs Jarvis’s body and repeatedly failing to notify the authorities of her death.
And last Thursday at Edinburgh High Court she was told that she would be punished by way of a spell in prison.
The 57-year-old arrived in Coldstream in the 1950s after being adopted by Jus-Rol founder Tommy Forsyth and his wife, however after Mr Forsyth passed away and she inherited his fortune, Heyster left the town as a teenager and never returned.
The mum-of-three first met Harry Jarvis in April 2008 after exchanging messages over the internet.
It was claimed in court that she quickly became besotted with him, eventually moving into a garden shed in the home he shared with his wife.
Mrs 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 contacted the police when Mrs Jarvis apparently disappeared and she and her brother didn’t believe their dad’s stories that she had taken a trip to Dundee or gone into respite care.
Two days later, on September 16, 2009, Mrs Jarvis’s decomposing body, taped up in a duvet, was found in the basement of the family home in Balbardie Crescent, Bathgate.
Heyster and Mr Jarvis were traced by police after they attempted to leave a guest house in Perth without paying.
It was on being interviewed in Edinburgh that detectives grew suspicious of their involvement in Mrs Jarvis’s murder and both were subsequently arrested and charged.
Jarvis was convicted of his wife’s murder in March this year and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was called as a defence witness in Heyster’s trial at the High Court after she blamed him for any wrong doing.
Defending Heyster in court, solicitor advocate Roy McMenamin, pleaded for leniency, telling Lord Brailsford, presiding, “Her conviction marks the lowest point for a woman who has no previous convictions and has lived in existence before this without blemish and devoid of criminality.
“Her fall from grace has been inextricably linked to her realationship and infatuation with Harry Jarvis.
However, although acknowledging the “devious and manipulative actions” of Jarvis, when sentencing Heyster, Lord Brailsford said there was no ignoring the fact that she’d committed a serious offence and her actions had a “practical and pernicious effect.”
He told her: “Your conduct plainly constitutes an attempt to defeat the ends of justice at the higher end of the scale of gravity of offences of this sort.
“This conduct did have a practical and pernicious result in that the delay in discovering the body of Carol Jarvis caused deterioration in the condition of the body.”
Speaking at the end of the sentencing, Detective Inspector Phil Gachagan, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “The length of sentence handed down to Rita Heyster reflects the serious nature of the part she played in attempting to disrupt the police investigation into Carol Jarvis’s disappearance and murder.
“In helping Harry Jarvis conceal his wife’s body under the floorboards, she showed a complete lack of compassion for Mrs Jarvis or the suffering her family would have to endure.
“It is my sincere hope that Carol Jarvis’s loved ones take comfort from the sentence handed down today and can begin to move on with their lives.
“Rita Heyster, who was complicit in Harry Jarvis’s manipulation and deceit, must now live with the consequences of her actions as she begins her term behind bars.”