Thornton `said she would kill husband'

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The Independent Online
Three days before Sara Thornton fatally stabbed her drunken and violent husband, she had told a friend she was going to kill him, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

The following day, her step-son had to intervene and force her to drop a kitchen knife she was pointing at her husband - the same knife she later used to kill him. She also gave her husband an overdose of Mogadon tranquilliser tablets, crushed up in some cooked chicken.

Urging the appeal judges to reject Thornton's appeal, the prosecuting counsel Brian Escott Cox QC said there was "an extremely strong case for the prosecution on murder".

Thornton, 38, of Atherstone, Warwickshire, was jailed for life in February 1990 for murdering her husband Malcolm, a former policeman, with a single thrust of the kitchen knife as he lay in a drunken stupor on a sofa. Her original appeal on the grounds that she was "provoked" was rejected in 1991.

But her case was referred back to the court after new evidence emerged, indicating she was suffering from "battered woman syndrome" and a personality disorder which together made her vulnerable and liable to suddenly "snap" under the stress of repeated abuse from her alcoholic husband.

But yesterday Mr Escott Cox said the evidence "militates very strongly against this being a true case of provocation". He claimed Thornton was not a woman with "a long-term history of being a battered wife". The violence and threats to which she had been subjected had, he claimed, been "sporadic" and occurred over a short period - between the autumn of 1987, when the couple started living together, until Mr Thornton's death in June 1989.

Three days before the killing, Mr Escott Cox told the court, Thornton had told a friend "she was not prepared to give anything up" for her husband and was going to kill him.

On the night of the killing, he said she was in a difficult mood and had written in lipstick on the dressing-table mirror: "Bastard Thornton, I hate you."

Mr Escott Cox said the stabbing itself did not involve raised voices, or a frenzied attack, but one "clinical blow".

But Michael Mansfield QC, for Thornton, said there was evidence showing that she had suffered abuse over a period of time which, coming on top of her vulnerable personality, had caused her to snap when her husband had called her a whore and threatened to kill her.

Last night, Thornton's hopes of being cleared hung in the balance after the appeal judges, led by Lord Taylor of Gosforth, the Lord Chief Justice, reserved their decision. However they agreed to renew her bail pending their judgment, expected before Christmas.