UK prosecutors won’t seek retrial in abused wife case
LONDON (AP) — A British victim of domestic abuse who was serving a life sentence for killing her husband was freed Friday in a case the family hopes will become a landmark for people suffering coercive behavior by a partner.
Sally Challen was convicted in 2011 of killing her 61-year-old husband Richard with a hammer. But her conviction was quashed and a new trial ordered in February, in light of psychiatric report that concluded she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the attack.
The mother of two, who is 65, admitted the slaying but denied murder, saying her spouse had controlled and humiliated her for 40 years. Judge Andrew Edis accepted the plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter, saying she had suffered from “years of controlling, isolating and humiliating conduct” with the added provocation of her husband’s “serial multiple infidelity.”
“You felt trapped and manipulated because you were trapped and manipulated,” Edis said.
Challen had already been released from prison pending trial, but the decision removes the threat of further imprisonment. She seemed relieved and tearful in the courtroom packed with family and well-wishers and later told reporters she hoped other women suffering abusive behavior would seek help.
“We really want to make sure this is a landmark moment and run with it, and make people aware and create an big issue of it and get people talking,” her son, David Challen, told reporters afterward. “It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue too,”
Her attorney, Clare Wade, said Richard Challen had frequented prostitutes and was constantly criticized his wife, putting her down “at all turns,” and making humiliating comments about her weight. He also posed beside models and had the photo made into a Christmas card which he sent to their mutual friends.
She resolved to leave him in 2009 after seeing a news item about brothels using trafficked women, but was back by 2010 after being unhappy living alone.
On the day of the killing, Richard Challen’s words, “Don’t question me,” caused her to lose control and hit him with the hammer.