GEORGE Leigers' letters to his wife just weeks before he killed her reveal a selfish desire to have his needs met while she struggled to make ends meet.

Rita, 29, was at home in County Durham while Leigers, then 30, was on remand in Brixton Prison for robbing a train passenger at Kings Cross station in London at knifepoint.

In the letters he sent from his cell, Leigers acknowledges his wife's financial struggles but still demands she sends him rolling tobacco and cigarette papers.

Rita's family say throughout their marriage, Leigers was prepared to see his wife and children go without as long as his needs were met.

He often left home for days at a time when his Giro arrived and would return with new clothes and an expensive haircut.

Rita's sister said: "There were times when Rita had no money to feed the children and he didn't seem to care."

In the prison letters, written through the summer of 1986, Leigers always starts by asking about the welfare of his wife and children, but soon turns the conversation to himself.

Shortly after his arrest in early May, Leigers writes: "I am glad you are standing by me. It's giving me strength."

In the same letter he urges Rita not to send anything and keep "what little money you've got for you and the bairns".

But within a week he is pleading: "Just put cash in with the letters - postal orders are NO GOOD."

By May 27, when Rita had suggested visiting him in jail, Leigers writes: "If you do come down, do you think you could afford some more baccie and papers?"

Many of the letters are signed "Your sexy husband George" or "Randy George" and contain childish drawings of hearts with their initials inside.

In one of the final letters before his court case and release, dated July 30, Leigers says: "Happy anniversary for Monday."

Six weeks later, Leigers battered Rita to death with a heavy statuette and fled the family home - leaving his wife's body and three children inside.

Yesterday, Rita's family said Leigers was a control-freak who manipulated his wife right up until her death at his hands in 1986.

One sister said Rita told her of at least four occasions when he tried to kill her before the fatal attack with a heavy Buddha statuette at their home in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham.

"Rita made me promise to take care of the kids if anything ever happened to her," she said.

"Once she said: 'I know something is going to happen to me' but refused to come and stay with me.

"About nine months before she was killed, she was making the bed and he tried to smother her with a pillow.

"She kicked him in the private parts and escaped, but went back.

"The way she saw it was that she was married to him and had their children and she should be with him - but part of that was the hold he seemed to have over her, to the extent she would do anything for him."

* Leigers, 47, was found guilty of the murder of Sarah Jane Coughlan by a jury at Teesside Crown Court. He had denied the charge but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.