Croydon: A transvestite who stabbed his friend to death when he discovered he had bedded his wife was last week jailed for life.

Malcolm French, 52, knifed Christopher Loftus, 32 in the neck as they tussled at French's in Leafy Way, Croydon.

French's marriage to wife Deborah ended when he confessed he had secretly dressed in women's clothes for 40 years.

French, lately of Camberley, was badly injured during the incident. He had denied murder, claiming he acted in self-defence.

But on Wednesday, June 19, a jury convicted him of murder after almost eight hours' deliberation.

Jailing him for life, Judge David Stokes, QC, said: "You murdered him out of jealousy.

"Before you did so, you said, If I can't have her, no one else can'."

French had been married to mother-of-two Deborah for more than eight years, but relationship problems began in 1999.

Mr Loftus supported Mrs French as she tried to deal with the split but the relationship developed and in early September 2001 Mr Loftus took French's place in the home.

French at first appeared to accept his wife's new relationship, but later began a campaign of abusive phonecalls.

On September 11, he called at the house saying he needed to pick up some cable for work. But when Mrs French let him in, the defendant pounced on Mr Loftus.

Prosecuting, Wendy Joseph QC said: "The defendant saw Mr Loftus, rushed into the living room, and got on top of him, straddling him on the sofa."

During the attack, French shouted: "I am going down for this anyway, I might as well make it a good job."

Horrified Mrs French ran for help. Giving evidence French told the court how he found Loftus at the marital home with a smug grin on his face'.

He said he stabbed Mr Loftus only after being stabbed several times in the chest and stomach.

French told the court: "It was him or me, as simple as that. He was going to finish me off. I was terrified."

He then took the knife and slit his own throat, the jury heard.

"I was just overwhelmed. I had killed my friend. I just wanted to die."

June 27, 2002 12:00