A wealthy businessman has been jailed for life for murdering his pregnant wife - even though her body has never been found.

Robert Ekaireb, of Corrigan Close, will serve at least 22 years behind bars for murdering Lihau Cao, who disappeared in October 2006.

The 36-year-old stabbed her after an argument in their flat on October 23, 2006, then disposed of the body and removed all traces of his murder from the house.

He then rolled her body in the bedroom carpet and put it in the car boot, before using an organised criminal network to dispose of her body.

Mr Ekaireb never returned to the flat - registering it with an estate agent for reletting and hiring a firm to clean the property.

Detective Inspector Andy Manning of the Metropolitan Police's homicide and major crime command said: "Lihau clearly wasn't happy in her marriage - Ekaireb was controlling, restricted her access to money despite his immense wealth and often lost his temper.

“She had spoken to friends and family about leaving him and there is evidence she was preparing to do so for good.”

Ekaireb was arrested on June 7, 2012 and charged the following day.

Lihau, 27, was last seen when she was four months pregnant in 2006, but was not reported missing until February 2007, after her family in China and Denmark began to worry they had not heard from her.

Also known as Lisa, she left China in 2002 and began working as a waitress and a dancer in Dublin until June 2006, before marrying Ekaireb and moving to Hampstead in 2006.

She had spoken to doctors about having an abortion as she feared her husband, who owned properties worth more than £65million, would make an unsuitable father.

Doctors also raised concerns that Ekarieb had suddenly stopped taking his long-term medication for depression, making him prone to violent mood swings.

In August 2006, he was arrested for assaulting Lihau and possesion of a flick-knife after an argument in their car, but after he was charged, Lihau withdrew the allegation.

In October 2006 she contacted her brother in Denmark and said she was unhappy with Ekaireb - this was the last time police could prove she was alive.

At the end of October, Lihau’s sister in China received a call in poor Chinese saying she had given birth to a baby girl - but she would have only been five months' pregnant at the time.

Lihau's brother made numerous calls to his sister's phone and Ekaireb's mobile between November and December - but Ekaireb ignored them all.

Ekaireb said Lihau had walked out of their marriage sometime in late 2006 and he had not seen her since.

Lihau would have been due to give birth in March 2007 but nationwide hospital enquiries failed to trace any records.

Numerous other enquiries showed no activity on her bank card or mobile, no contact with her family and no trace of her having flown out of the country.

DI Manning added: “We will never know how Lihau died or what happened to her body, which is a tragedy for her family and her unborn child.

“Despite this, the jury has today found overwhelming evidence that Ekaireb killed his wife and it is satisfying, seven years after her disappearance, to reach this conviction today and provide some answers to Lihau's family.”