At 64, he had a nice house, a wife of 45 years – Anne – three sons, and a brood of grandkids.
He worked in local politics and had even been elected a councillor for his community.
But Stephen had something – or someone – in his sights he was willing to risk it all for.
Over the years he’d developed an obsession with his daughter-in-law, Anastasia Pomiateeva.
She was his eldest son Gary’s partner of nine years.
The pair had three kids together and lived close by.
Despite it being a huge betrayal of poor Gary, Stephen started trying it on with her.
Asking Anastasia for coffee, Stephen bemoaned his lack of sex life and asked her if she’d like to ‘make him happy’.
Anastasia said she initially refused but, after weeks of harassment by a man she says she was ‘intimidated’ by because he was ‘very powerful, controlling and manipulative’, she relented and started a sordid affair. He gave her the nickname SBG, short for Steve’s Beautiful Girl, and tried to impress her with photos from his bodybuilding days years earlier.
Despite trying to break things off, Anastasia said whenever she did, he told her he needed her.
In the end, it was Anne, 62, who ended the affair two months after it began.
Guessing her husband’s pin number on his phone was 4545, because he once served in the Royal
Marines unit 45 Commando, she read his revealing text messages.
He admitted everything, so Anastasia also broke the news to Gary, 44.
Although heartbroken, incredibly Gary forgave her.
But he couldn’t believe his own dad – the man he idolised and worshipped – had done something like that to him.
While the affair brought Gary and Anastasia closer together, it ripped the rest of the family apart.
Gary’s brothers, Stephen Jr, 29, and Christopher, 41, disowned their father. And Stephen continued a campaign of harassment against Anastasia, trying to contact her, even following her to the supermarket. Then she found out he had photos of her from years before stored on his computer.
He’d downloaded them from Facebook and superimposed her head on to the bodies of porn stars.
Terrified, she and Gary changed their numbers to stop him contacting them. Much worse was to come though...
In December 2017, Anne posted a chilling message on Facebook.
Happy Christmas, she wrote. I hope I will still be here in 2018. We will see.
Whether it was a joke or a prediction, her worst fears came true just days later.
On December 30, Stephen called emergency services and calmly told the operator, ‘I’ve err… just killed my wife. Bit different for you tonight I expect. Happy New Year.’
Within minutes, police and paramedics were at Anne and Stephen’s home, but it was too late. Anne couldn’t be revived.
She’d been killed by a compression of the neck – she’d most likely been held in a choke hold.
This was something Stephen would have learnt during his time in the military.
‘I’ve been a very naughty boy,’ he told officers as he was arrested. ‘Everyone has their breaking point.’
Stephen was charged with murder.
In July last year, Stephen Searle, 64, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, claiming Anne had attacked him with a knife and he had been acting in self-defence.
He said he didn’t intend to kill her but failed to call an ambulance afterwards and instead, ‘sat there like a bloody idiot’.
The prosecution argued that the couple had had another huge row regarding the affair.
This resulted in Stephen holding Anne in the killer choke hold from which she died. It took the jury just three and a half hours to find him guilty.
The judge, Mr Justice Green, sentenced him to life in jail with a minimum of 14 years before he’ll be considered for parole.
‘Your actions have caused devastating waves of pain and anguish to crash through your entire family,’ he said. A heartbreaking statement from Stephen Jr spelt that out.
‘As a result of what’s happened, the relationship between me and my brothers has been torn apart.Not only have I lost my mum but because of what he’s done I have lost my dad too.’ Gary has also been left reeling.
‘I haven’t got an old man any more for obvious reasons... I would have done anything for him, it’s a huge betrayal,’ he said.
Speaking about his partner, he said, ‘Me and Anastasia just love each other so much that if anything this has brought us closer together. We will be together for the rest of our lives, until we are old and grey. ‘We have all done things in our lives we are not proud of.’
Read more in this week's issue of that's life, on sale now.
Have you heard our gripping new podcast How I Survived? When mum-of-three Pepita Nicholls woke up in the middle of the night to a horrifying hissing sound, she faced a fight for her life.
WATCH... Borce Ristevski has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife Karen Ristevski: