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Socialite Michael Telling was convicted today of killing his...

EXETER, England -- Socialite Michael Telling was convicted today of killing his bisexual American wife in the 'headless body' case and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

But the 12-member jury reduced the crime from murder to manslaughter, finding that 34-year-old Telling suffered from mental impairment at the time of the killing.

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After the manslaughter verdict was announced, a defense lawyer said Telling declared he was 'pleased I have not been branded a murderer.'

'Not evil but mad,' headlined London's Standard Newspaper, wrapping up the nine-day case that featured lurid testimony of lesbian romps and life in the fast lane.

Telling admitted to shooting his California wife Monika Zumsteg Telling and cutting off her head after she made fun of his sexual capabilities and told of her affairs with women. But he pleaded what under British law is called 'diminished responsibility' -- a common plea when mental competency is in question.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated 2- hours before accepting his plea and bringing in the verdict of manslaughter.

Telling, 34, admitted he shot his wife, Monika, 27, of Santa Rosa, Calif., and hid her body for five months in a half-built sauna at their home in the Buckinghamshire countryside west of London.

Before dumping the body in a woodland tourist area near Exeter in western England, he severed the head with an ax and took it home where he kept it in the trunk of a car.

At least two girlfriends of Telling said they slept with him on different occasions while his wife's body lay hidden nearby. He told them Monika had gone home to the United States.

Other witnesses, including former lesbian lovers of Mrs Telling, told the nine-day trial lurid details of the doomed 17-month marriage that was a round of travel, parties and socialite high life.

Mrs. Telling, they said, flaunted her sexual affairs with men and women and publicly taunted Telling, a member of one of Britain's richest families, for his sexual inadequacy.

They said she was alcoholic and a drug addict and quoted her assaying she married Telling only for his money.

Telling, who has a history of emotional disturbance since childhood, is second cousin of multi-millionaire businessman Lord Vestey and never had to work. He lived expensively off the income from a Vestey family trust.

Before sentening him to life, the judge Sir John Sheldon in his summation told the jury the killing appeared 'a variation on a not unknown theme.'

He urged the jurors to discard their emotions and consider the evidence dispassionately in deciding between conflicting psychiatric evidence of Telling's mental state.

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