He claimed to be Britain's most fashionable psychic and spiritualist with a clientele which included pop stars and TV celebrities. She was BBC television's top make-up artist and had Bafta and Emmy awards to prove it.
And when blonde beautiful 37-year-old Diane Wickens met the 52-year-old Reverend David Chenery at London's BBC Television Centre in the spring of 1997 it was — so far as she was concerned — love at first sight.
In vain, friends warned her that the spiritualist who made a living reading Tarot cards at £40 a time and passed on "messages from the dead" had something of a dodgy reputation. Diane had already fallen for his gentle voice, kind eyes and the dog-collar that symbolised trust and compassion.
It was a mistake that would prove to have consequences that were tragic and eventually fatal. David Chenery was giving a spiritualist reading on a daytime TV chat-show and was given a brief make-up treatment by Diane Wickens who was standing in for a make-up girl who was ill.
Normally she never did that sort of routine work. Usually she was out on location with top prestige shows like the period dramas Pride and Prejudice and Arabian Nights, for which she won awards, or the cult comedy Dead Ringers.
Like so many women, Diane was mesmerised by David Chenery. From the start she called him her "soul mate" and within six weeks she had ditched her long-term boyfriend and invited the Reverend to share her flat in the trendy London district of Battersea. That summer they married at a London register office followed by a spiritualist ceremony, both dressed in white and garlanded with flowers.
In 2000 they bought a remote £500,000 country cottage near the sea in East Sussex. Diane's career was blossoming and David found he was overshadowed by his wife's success and financially dependent on her.
The blissful relationship soon cooled and David began to make contact with local spiritualist churches. Soon he had at least 12 women in his teaching circle — and was having affairs with most of them.
While casual acquaintances saw David and Diane Chenery-Wickens as a happy couple living in rural tranquillity, close friends already sensed that the marriage was in trouble. In fact the Reverend David was juggling a harem of mistresses including a pub landlord's wife and an osteopath who was treating him for a back injury.
But one mistress seemed more permanent than the rest. Their relationship began in 2004 after the Reverend had claimed to have had a message from her dead mother. Soon he was staying with her several nights a week and twice went on holiday with her and her children. Friends would later say that they didn't know just how much Diane, now the BBC's top make-up artist, knew about her husband's adultery but by 2006 she was worried enough to check up on some unfamiliar numbers on David's mobile phone, which he had left at home by mistake. She found that some were Internet chat-lines and the others were answered by women.
Visiting a nearby friend, she poured out her discovery and said that when David came home from a spiritualist meeting she would confront him with what she knew. Diane Chenery-Wickens was never seen alive again.
Two days later, her husband reported his wife missing to the police. He said they had travelled to London together on the train because she had a meeting at the BBC. They arranged to meet later, but Diane failed to turn up.
Shocked and distressed he left numerous voicemails on her phone but never got a reply. At first police treated him as a distraught husband — until railway CCTV showed that he had travelled to London alone. Swiftly changing his story, David Chenery-Wickens told police that the truth was that Diane had begged him to cover up her disappearance.
She had gone to ground, he said, because she couldn't bear the shame of a broken marriage and debts, and she was also having an affair with a colleague at the BBC. He had promised to keep h