Son says father `helped in plot to kill mother'

`She used to pin us against the wall and shout at us, swear at us and spit at us. I used to break down in tears'
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A schoolboy told a court yesterday how his father helped hatch a plot to bludgeon his mother to death. John Howells told Leeds Crown Court his brother Glenn killed their mother, Eve, with a hammer weeks after they discussed the attack with their father, David.

The skull of Mrs Howells, a 48-year-old teacher, was shattered "like an eggshell" during an attack at the family home in Dalton Green Lane, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in August, 1995. John, then 14, Glenn, then 15, and David, 48, all deny her murder. Glenn, who told the court on Tuesday that his mother made their lives "hell", admits manslaughter on grounds of provocation.

Yesterday John said he had talked with his brother about wanting his mother dead two years before the killing. A year later, he said, his father joined the discussions. "We thought about throwing her off the balcony on holiday or pushing her into the road." After the family returned from a 1995 holiday in Ibiza, the use of a hammer to kill Mrs Howells was discussed and a date set. The plan was to make it look like a bungled burglary.

"I would hide the weapon", said John. Aidan Marran QC, defending John, asked: "Was your father a party to these discussions?"

"Yes," he replied.

John, who said he loved his mother but also hated her because of the way she treated him, said he thought the plan had "evaporated" when it was not carried out on the set date.

But a week later the killing was carried out after Glenn snapped when his mother started swearing at them for not walking the dog properly. The pair went into the bedroom and Glenn got changed before leaving the room with a hammer.

John continued: "I heard a noise like a bang. I just heard one. I went through to the lounge. I saw Glenn striking Mum."

"Did you want that to happen, John?" said Mr Marran.

"No," he replied. "I was asking Glenn to stop. I was saying `no, no'. Vaguely I remember saying kill her in some different way." Other ways that had been discussed, included poisoning, he said.

Glenn stopped and told his brother to take the family dog out of the room. Both boys were crying. John next saw his brother in the bedroom. He said: "He couldn't believe what he'd done. I couldn't believe it either."

He then went to dispose of the bloodstained clothes and the hammer on his bike. When asked who wanted Mrs Howells dead, John replied: "Glenn did." John said his father, a fitter, was not "in on it a great deal" and when they talked to him about killing their mother "it wasn't discussed in depth". He said he had spoken to his father about the possibility of a divorce but added: "It wasn't an option. We always knew she would still always be there."

Gary Burrell QC, representing Glenn, put it to John that his brother took part in the killing because he wanted a normal life. "That's what we all wanted," said John. "She used to pin us up against the wall and shout at us ... spit at us and she wouldn't let us turn our faces away from her," he said.

A former neighbour of the family, Margaret Drake, said Mrs Howells treated the children so badly when they were toddlers that she always regretted not calling in social services. The children were smacked every day, although "I never saw any bruises. It was more mental cruelty." She added: "We used to dread them going in for bath-time because of the screams ... We thought someone was murdering them. It was terrible. It wasn't just the normal cry of a child misbehaving. It was screams as though she was drowning them.

"Looking back now I should have reported them to social services. For years I've kept thinking I wonder how those children are going on. I have to live with that."

The trial was adjourned to today.