Glenn Howells, 17, and his brother John, 15, smashed their mother Eve's skull repeatedly with a hammer in the living room of their home in Huddersfield, it was alleged at Leeds Crown Court. Glenn, who was 15 at the time of his mother's death in August 1995, and John, who was 14, deny murder. Glenn admits manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. Their father David, 48, denies murder.
Franz Muller QC, for the prosecution, told the court that a bureau had been overturned and the contents strewn across the floor, leading police to believe initially that Mrs Howells, 48, had disturbed burglars. But they soon began to suspect the boys and their father. "Far from this being an attack committed on the spur of the moment in the course of a burglary, this was a planned attack on Mrs Howells which was designed to kill her and to try and make sure that those responsible would not be caught," Mr Muller said.
Mr Howells was in a pubwhen his wife was killed, but this was "an essential part of the plan" so that he would not be suspected. There were problems with the marriage and Mr Howells stood to gain more pounds 150,000 from his wife's death. The boys, he added, would also benefit if their father came into money.
Gary Burrell QC, representing Glenn, said the boy, who claimed to have found his mother's body after going out to walk the dog, had been provoked. He said: "It will be Glenn Howells' defence that over a period of some five years, perhaps a little longer, his mother subjected him to severe and repeated emotional and mental abuse and cruelty." Eventually the boy reached the stage where he "lost his self-control and took her life".
Mr Muller told the court that Mrs Howells was a teacher and many of her pupils thought she was "strict and unsympathetic".
He said: "This attitude spilt over into the home and it appears that her sons resented the way she ruled their lives."
Neighbours said Mrs Howells could often be heard shouting and swearing at the boys and one neighbour described them as "the family from hell". Mr Muller said: "Both boys, but particularly Glenn, expressed their resentment at the way they were being treated by telling people that they hated their mother."
The marriage was not happy, sexual relations were practically non- existent, and Mrs Howells was having an affair with one of her husband's best friends, the court was told.
"A deep feeling of animosity towards the deceased appears to have been shared between the three defendants and appears to have been all the more poignant as they all lived together in that relatively small bungalow," said Mr Muller.
Police began to suspect the boys when the family went to identify the body and an officer saw Glenn wink twice at his brother and then smirk.
Blood spots were found under the bureau suggesting that it had been pulled over after she was killed, and forensic scientists found spots of airborne blood on John's jacket, suggesting he was present when she was attacked despite telling police he had not seen her body.
The boys were arrested on 20 September and soon afterwards covert tapes were made of conversations with their father. Mr Howells can be heard saying: "We have just got to bluff it out. If you break I'm in as well, so we've got to stick together ... It's your jacket that's caused this. We just never realised how much forensic can find."
Mr Muller said that although Mr Howells was not present when his wife was killed he was guilty of murder because he "counselled and procured its commission".
And he went on: "He set out to cause them to do it and in fact did cause them to do it. Can you really credit these two boys, then 14 and 15 years of age, of having killed their mother without the knowledge and without the approval and encouragement of their father."
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