The family who killed their mother

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The Independent Online
Two brothers and their father were convicted yesterday of the murder of Eve Howells, the boys' mother.

In an unusual step, the judge, Mr Justice Alliott, gave lawyers for the three 24 hours to prepare addresses to discover the "whole truth" surrounding the killing. He will today pass sentences of life imprisonment on the father, David Howells, and indefinite detentions on the two brothers, Glenn and John, but said the addresses may influence his recommendations for minimum periods of detention.

"Although I entirely endorse the verdicts, I don't know the whole truth," said Mr Alliott.

The jury at Leeds Crown Court heard how Mrs Howells demanded regular massage from Glenn, her teenage son, sitting naked in the bedroom as the boy squirmed, averting his eyes from her "private parts". She made both her sons clean the dirt from her toenails, spat abuse at them, beat them, and tied them to the kitchen table..

She blamed Glenn for the death of her first-born child, and sat naked on the toilet when he showered. She abused him "on a global scale", a clinical psychologist told the court. Glenn was 15 when he smashed his mother's skull with the sharp and blunt ends of the hammer. Something had gone in his head, he told the court. Blood hit the ceiling, and then Glenn felt her pulse. "I wanted my mum back," he said. She used to call him "a fat fucker".

Yesterday, Mrs Howells' husband, David, and two teenage sons, Glenn, now 17 and John, 16, were convicted of her murder by a jury. Mrs Howells, 48, died as the culmination of a plot hatched by the three to rid them of the source of persistent sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

The boys and their father made various plots before Glenn was inspired by the Crimewatch programme to take a hammer to his mother at their Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, home in August 1995. The boys were to "discover" her killed during a burglary while their father had the alibi of a pub darts match. But forensic scientific evidence and police suspicions led to the prosecutions.

It was almost a paradoxical killing, the violent member of "the family from hell" in the morgue, her victims in the dock.

Mrs Howells taught at a Huddersfield secondary school. She terrified pupils, according to a colleague. She was "very, very disturbed", she said.

She was "Belsen thin". She said she had cancer, but there was little wrong with her body. She had a string of psychosomatic disorders, her doctor said. He put her on Valium and sleeping tablets.

She "swiped" an inheritance bequeathed to her father, and amassed a pounds 155,000 personal fortune. Her salary was saved, and household expenses met from her husband's wages. Howells drank too much; he was cuckolded by his best friend, frightened of his wife, and too weak to heed the boys' advice to get divorced.

They lived in a bungalow with ivy around the replacement windows. It stands on a middle-class street, but Mrs Howells was far from suburban- discreet. One neighbour abandoned sitting in his garden because of her cursing, another remembered bath-time for the children. "The screams that used to come out were like someone was murdering them," the court was told.

John was his mother's favourite. He was not spared abuse, but enjoyed privileges - sweets when he did the pedicure, and a proper tea when she made Glenn do with bread and jam. John was "overly compliant", social workers said.

At the age of five, John would open as many as 18 tins of food when he came home from school, take a spoonful from each, then conceal them. He would urinate in the litter bin, bite around the edge of his bed, and break toys. A psychiatrist said he was probably rebelling against her discipline.

Three days after they escaped her discipline by murder, the boys went into town to celebrate their liberation. They had their ears pierced.

Jurors heard conversations between the three, "bugged" at a police station on the authority of an assistant chief constable. Forensic scientific evidence had put the boys by their mother when the blood flew. Howells had behaved suspiciously, any feelings of bereavement subordinated to a thirst for ale. He told the boys to stick to the story, bluff if out. "If you two break, then I'm in as well."

But the enduring impression of the tapes was Glenn's misery. "Got no dad any more ... got no mum and dad ... want me mum," he sobbed. The boys made confessions but told different stories. Howells stuck to his; he found out what the boys had done, never condoned it, but tried to contrive a plausible cover-up. John said his father joined the plotting "a little bit". John's admissions consisted of "wicked lies", his father said.

Under cross-examination, Glenn was asked: "Would you have killed your mother without the approval of your father, depriving him of a wife?" "She deprived me of my life," Glenn said.