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TravelGuides – Penelope Jackson: row over bubble and squeak ended in murder | UK news

TravelGuides – Penelope Jackson: row over bubble and squeak ended in murder | UK news

It was a row with her husband over serving bubble and squeak during a birthday meal of lobster and champagne that Penelope Jackson identified as the moment that broke her. She took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed David Jackson multiple times before handing herself in to police.

The details were among those aired in a trial that has captured the public imagination for its insight into the complex motives of a retired accountant who killed her husband of 24 years, a retired army lieutenant colonel, at their home in a Somerset village. The trial was seen as a test of criminal courts’ attitudes to claims of coercive control in domestic homicide cases.

On Friday Penelope Jackson, 66, was found guilty of murder at Bristol crown court. She had admitted manslaughter but denied murdering her husband, 78, on grounds that he had physically abused and coercively controlled her for years.

The jury was asked to decide whether, despite a seemingly lucid admission to the police that she had killed him, years of feeling gradually corroded by emotional and physical abuse had resulted in Jackson losing control of herself that night.

Jackson was represented by the prominent lawyer Clare Wade QC, who is also conducting an independent review for the government around the sentencing of domestic homicide. In a 2010 case, Wade obtained a manslaughter conviction for Sally Challen, who killed her husband after suffering years of coercive control.

Jackson’s case centred on the evening of 13 February, when the couple shared a celebratory meal kit with their daughter and her husband via a four-hour Zoom call at their home in Berrow, Somerset.

Her daughter Isabelle Potterton, 31, said the atmosphere was initially “lovely” but deteriorated when Jackson brought out a bubble and squeak side to go with the steak main course, prompting an argument over whether anyone wanted to eat it.

Potterton, who is Jackson’s child from a previous marriage but was raised by the couple, said she was used to her stubborn and hot-tempered parents bickering regularly. “I rolled my eyes and thought ‘they’re just being silly’.”

Shortly after ending the call, Potterton received a strange text message from her mother, which read: “If it all goes tits, you have this message. I love you to the ends of the earth.” She rang to check she was OK, and was told that she was.

But later that evening, Jackson took a kitchen knife to her bedroom initially as self-defence, she told the trial. She said that she later considered using it to kill herself, and walked into her husband’s bedroom to tell him. She told the court: “I wanted him to say: ‘I am sorry, Pen.’ He didn’t, he just said: ‘For God’s sake you are pathetic.’”

That was the moment when she “lost it”, she told jurors. She said: “I just thought I cannot do this. It is not fair and I lost control.”

Penelope Jackson seen after her arrest for attempted murder of her husband
Penelope Jackson seen after her arrest for attempted murder of her husband.

After the incident, she calmly told the police she was “compos mentis” and was prepared to confess. She said he goaded that she had not even “been able to do [the stabbing] right”, prompting her to stab him two more times while he was on the phone to 999, she claimed. She later refused instructions from a paramedic to help him.

The prosecution contended that the shocking recordings from the emergency calls, which were played to the jury, were evidence of a murder committed in cold blood.

But the defence argued that the killing was the result of decades of shame, abuse and secrecy that finally boiled over. Jackson has said the violence dated back to 1998, shortly after David Jackson’s son from his first marriage killed himself. Potterton described her father as a “broken man” in its wake, and observed three violent incidents, one in which he held a knife to Jackson’s throat.

Jackson said in the following years her husband controlled which TV shows she watched and repeatedly abused her, including strangling, verbal aggression and forced sex. She felt ashamed and afraid of leaving him, but also grateful to her husband for being a “good father” to Potterton.

In December, the couple’s toxic relationship was said to have worsened when a row over a remote control resulted in her calling the police after she locked her husband in the conservatory, where he was brandishing a poker. Her computer’s search history showed she researched domestic violence refuges later that evening.

Yet Jackson’s daughter’s testimony described a largely “idyllic” family life of domestic comforts, and a loving relationship between two parents.

In her testimony, Jackson reflected on how she had struggled with being stuck shielding at home with her husband during lockdowns, and had visited a doctor to discuss her drinking. She said: “I was there all the time, there was no escape.”

Tom Potterton, Isabelle’s husband, described David Jackson as “a proud and traditional man who didn’t like to show his emotions”.

Jane Calverley, David Jackson’s daughter from his first marriage, said she thought her father always seemed “on edge” with his wife, who she said “baited” him and enjoyed making people feel uncomfortable.

During the hearing, Wade had described Jackson as a vulnerable woman ravaged by deep shame about her fostered upbringing and failed marriages. She had fled her physically abusive first marriage, while her third husband killed himself after learning of her affair with David Jackson. As a result, Wade said, Jackson was determined to live what was, at least on the surface, a “perfect life”.

She said this had lasted until Jackson was deprived of any “release from the atmosphere of the house”. Worn down by years of control, criticism and occasional physical violence, that night “everything imploded”, the court was told.

Ultimately, although Jackson appeared lucid in her admissions that were recorded on the night, Wade argued: “These are the words and actions of a woman who is out of control, she is totally detached from the reality of what has happened.”

Prof Jane Monckton Smith, a criminologist specialising in abusive relationships, told the Guardian there was clear evidence of coercive control in Jackson’s case but that in the past there have been problems with the concept – a complex umbrella term encompassing multiple types of abuse – being poorly communicated to jurors.

“Victims can get to the stage where they think ‘I’ve got to leave, the only way is to kill this person’ or sometimes they think ‘I’m actually so traumatised by all this now that I’ve rather take the consequences of killing this person than carry on as I am’,” she said. “There is definitely a concern among professionals that sentencing for women who kill abusive partners seems to be more harsh than for men who kill partners who are trying to leave them.”

TravelGuides – Penelope Jackson: row over bubble and squeak ended in murder | UK news

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