Norman Smyth, 34, of Sunnybank Road, Cove, initially denied murdering his wife Diane but admitted the killing during his latest court appearance at Winchester Crown Court on July 29.

The 36-year-old mother was found dead at their home last September, lying in a pool of blood in the bedroom with a massive slit to her throat and severe neck bruising.

Her body was only feet away from her sleeping six-year-old son.

Michael Parroy, prosecuting, said Smyth concocted an alibi by saying he was drinking in the Snow Goose pub until about 11.20pm on September 15.

But Mr Parroy said witnesses in the pub said Smyth had left at about 10.30pm that night and because his home was a ten-minute walk away he would have been home at about 10.45pm.

He said Smyth's whereabouts after leaving the pub could not then be accounted for until 11.30pm when he called at a neighbour's house for help.

Smyth told the neighbour he could not get into his house and his wife Diane was not answering the door.

After the two men got into his house, Smyth ran upstairs and told the man his wife was in a serious condition.

Police were called and Mrs Smyth was declared dead at midnight. A post mortem revealed she died of shock and severe blood loss after receiving an 18cm gash to her neck which severed the jugular vein.

Mr Parroy said: "There was also bruising to the back and front of the neck which was probably inflicted before death. It also suggested something was covering her face at the time of the assault."

Mr Parroy said police noticed Smyth had a scratch on his neck and one forearm and there was dry blood on the other arm.

Blood on Smyth's top matched that from bloodstains in the house.

Mr Parroy said dry blood found on Smyth's abdomen was his wife's.

Police later found a green polo shirt, a kitchen knife and a bar of soap in an Asda carrier bag dumped nearby on a pedestrian footbridge by the M3.

Mr Parroy said Smyth said he could not remember what happened that night between him leaving the pub and finding himself covered in his wife's blood.

It was revealed in court that Smyth, a former soldier, had been thrown out of the Royal Corps of Transport in 1987 for slashing a fellow soldier across the eye with a knife.

Anthony Donne, defending, said Smyth was devastated and bewildered by what he had done, saying he could not remember what had led him to kill the wife he loved.

"He has deprived himself of his wife, his son and his future," said Mr Donne. "Since the initial panic measures he has shown full remorse for his wife and her family."

He said close friends and family described the marriage as a normal, happy one. Even though Smyth was sometimes moody, none of them knew of any violence in the relationship.

In sentencing him to life, Judge Michael Brodrick told Smyth: "The consequences for your son are absolutely dreadful.

"He is deprived of a mother and will not have any normal contact with his father for some considerable time."

Speaking afterwards, Diana Smyth's father Michael Healy said their grandson was living with them. He said he was coping, but his life would never be the same again.

Det Sgt Ray Massie, of Aldershot CID, said he had never doubted Smyth's guilt, adding: "I'm pleased he spared the family the ordeal of a full trial. I feel he had nowhere to go."