Brutalised wife appeals against murder verdict: Kiranjit Ahluwalia, given a life sentence for killing her husband, will today ask the Court of Appeal to reduce the conviction to manslaughter. Heather Mills reports

NO ONE was surprised the night the emergency services were called to the Ahluwalia household. What shocked the family was that it was Deepak who had suffered fatal injuries and not his wife Kiranjit. For they knew Mr Ahluwalia regularly beat and abused his wife. They had seen the bruises and scars.

She had gone to them for help, begging to be allowed a divorce. But in her Asian community, divorce brings shame and dishonour.

On the night she finally retaliated, he had threatened to burn her face with an iron. According to Mrs Ahluwalia, this attack was no more vicious than many others. He had once pulled her by the hair into the back of their car, held a screwdriver to her eyes, threatening to gouge them out. 'Pray to your God and father,' he told her.

He had beaten her with the buckle end of belts, with the heels of shoes. He had ripped out handfuls of hair, broken her fingers, tried to run her over, and thrown her downstairs. He had often raped her.

Apart from his brief interludes of remorse this went on for the 10 years of their marriage - until she killed him. She had twice tried to kill herself. As he lay sleeping, Mrs Ahluwalia poured petrol on his feet. When he leapt from the bed, she set him alight. He died 10 days later.

Mrs Ahluwahlia said: 'It all became too much that night. I saw him sleeping and I thought 'how can he sleep when he has done this to me'?' I never meant to kill him. I just wanted to cause him pain, like he caused me. I never thought he would die.'

She is now serving a life sentence for murder in Bullwood Hall, Essex.

Mrs Ahluwalia was studying to become a solicitor in Canada when her family arranged the marriage to Deepak Ahluwalia in England. The violence started two days after their wedding when they moved into his family home in Crawley, West Sussex. 'It could be anything that triggered the violence,' she said. 'Maybe he didn't like the tea.'

Mrs Ahluwalia's case is the latest in a series of trials and appeals of women who have suffered years of physical and mental torture at the hands of a brutal spouse, before killing him. Some, like Mrs Ahluwalia and Sara Thornton, who stabbed her husband, end up serving life sentences - others like Pamela Sainsbury, who strangled and cut up hers, walk free with the sympathy of the court.

People who kill can claim self- defence, provocation and diminished responsibility in defence. For women who kill brutal husbands, all three defences have been problematical. Mrs Ahluwalia's lawyers will argue that the judge at her 1989 trial misdirected the jury over provocation. They have the reports of five psychiatrists who support her provocation claim - and a second ground of appeal, diminished responsiblity.

Lord Ashley, the Labour peer, is to introduce a Bill into the House of Lords to remove the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment for murder. 'The legal defence of provocation is failing women, such as Kiranjit Ahluwalia,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'