New twist in Sabine family saga: Grisly prank led to discovery of body

Leigh Anne Sabine is believed to have murdered her husband John Sabine. Photo / Supplied
Leigh Anne Sabine is believed to have murdered her husband John Sabine. Photo / Supplied

A Welsh woman was going to play a prank with her neighbour's medical skeleton -- but when she opened the box it turned out to be the decomposed body of her notorious Kiwi-linked neighbour.

In a bizarre and grisly twist to the Sabine family saga -- the couple who abandoned their five children in New Zealand in the 1960s -- Michelle James has told the Daily Mirror how she was suspected of murder when she found the corpse.

Leigh Anne Sabine and John Henry Sabine became household names in New Zealand when they abandoned their five children, aged from 2 to 11 years old at the time, and fled to Australia as they were investigated for fraud.

Ms James has now spoken about how she uncovered the body of Mr Sabine in South Wales.

Police believe he was murdered by his wife 18 years ago and the crime hidden until Mrs Sabine's own death from brain cancer in November, aged 75.

Speaking about the ordeal, Ms James -- who became a carer for Mrs Sabine before her death -- told the Daily Mirror how her neighbour told her never to touch the box that was stored on their shared patio.

She said it was a medical skeleton from her days as a nurse.

"I had to cut through several layers of plastic and cardboard and tin foil. Then I saw this sludge inside and there was a horrible smell.

"I just screamed: 'There's a dead body, a dead body'. I completely lost the plot. I was in meltdown. I'll never get over it."

Ms James intended to play a prank with the skeleton by inviting a friend over to meet her new boyfriend, but instead show him the skeleton as a joke.

Following the horrific discovery, Ms James phoned police -- but was arrested herself.

 John Sabine was believed to have been murdered by his wife. Photo / Supplied
John Sabine was believed to have been murdered by his wife. Photo / Supplied

The Daily Mirror reported that police suspected she had murdered her ex-husband or a former lover she had met on a dating site and held her in custody for four days for questioning.

Reports claimed she was shown a photograph of the body in the bag, which revealed Mr Sabine's smashed skull and the hair and skin still evident on his hands.

"I was terrified I was going to spend life in prison for a terrible crime somebody else committed," she said.

She was finally freed when DNA tests showed the body belonged to Mr Sabine, who was last seen in 1997.

After Ms James' release, Mrs Sabine became the prime suspect in the alleged murder -- that made global headlines when it was linked back to the couple's past.

Their lives were littered with scandal and crime, causing heartbreak and upset wherever they went.

Mrs Sabine met her husband when she was 16 years old and living in Luton, England. He was married with two children to another woman, but fell for his bride-to-be as she nursed him for injuries he suffered in the Korean War.

When she became pregnant, his wife threw him out and the couple had four children -- Susan, Steven, Martin and Jane -- before moving to New Zealand and having their fifth, Lee-Ann.

They soon abandoned them and moved to Perth to follow Mrs Sabine's dreams to be a cabaret singer in nightclubs.

- NZ Herald

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