A BARONESS was yesterday cleared of murdering her partially-blind

former husband.

Baroness Susan de Stempel, 55, was found not guilty by a jury at

Worcester Crown Court of the murder and manslaughter of retired

architect Simon Dale, 68.

She showed no reaction as the jury returned its verdict after nearly

four hours of deliberation at the end of an 11-day trial.

After the case, her eldest son Sebastian, 30, said: ''You can guess

what her reaction is -- but she doesn't want to speak to the press.''

Mr Anthony Palmer QC, prosecuting, had alleged that the baroness

battered 6ft 3ins Mr Dale to death with a crowbar at the culmination of

a 14-year feud over a 50-room mansion, Heath House in Shropshire.

The baroness bought the mansion with her own money shortly after

marrying Mr Dale in 1957.

They divorced in 1973 because of his unreasonable behaviour. The

baroness and her five children moved into rented property at Forresters

Hall, Docklow, Hereford and Worcester, but Mr Dale refused to move out

of the mansion, which she wanted to sell.

The trial was told he was determined to stay in the mansion, now worth

more than #500,000, because he believed it to be of major archaeological

importance and connected with the legend of King Arthur.

The baroness told the trial she had been working in the grounds of the

mansion on the day in September, 1987, when her former husband was

killed in the kitchen.

She said she went home and watched a Miss Marple TV murder mystery

before going to bed.

She told police Mr Dale had once dug a grave for her in the grounds of

the house and was violent. She had also seen him wearing women's

high-heeled shoes and lipstick.

She added: ''He was very sexually active and very aggressive, but it

certainly wasn't loving. He simply needed sex to satisfy himself.''

She alleged Mr Dale, described by Mr Justice Owen as a violent and

awkward man, smacked their four boys with great force and never showed

them or the couple's daughter any affection.

During the trial, the prosecution said it was willing to accept a

manslaughter verdict on the grounds that the baroness had been provoked

by Mr Dale's refusal to leave the family home.

The baroness took her title in 1984 when she married Michael de

Stempel but they split up less than a year later and were divorced in


Originally from the wealthy Wilberforce family in Yorkshire, she is a

great-great-granddaughter of anti-slavery campaigner William


West Mercia police said they were reviewing their inquiry into Mr

Dale's death.

The baroness later issued a statement through her solicitor which

said: ''I'm delighted at the outcome, and I'm pleased it's all over.''