Jail for paedophile who killed wife with hammer

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A former blacksmith who bludgeoned his wife to death with a hammer to spare her the shame of his child sex offending was today jailed for a minimum of 19 years.

Geoffrey Norton, 67, could not bear wife Janet, 64, having to deal with the fall-out of his paedophile activities.

He picked up a hammer he had hidden days earlier in the bedroom of their home in Preesall, Lancashire, and killed her while she slept.

Sentencing at Preston Crown Court, Mr Justice MacDuff told him: "This was a brutal murder of an innocent woman who had done nothing to deserve this.

"It was you, not she, who had committed shameful criminal acts."

Norton was arrested in December last year over an allegation he sexually assaulted a young girl.

He strenuously denied the offence and was released on police bail pending further inquiries but just weeks later he killed his wife at their log cabin-style home.

Norton dialled 999 shortly after he committed the murder at Willow Grove Caravan Park in Sandy Lane on the morning of January 22 and told the operator: "I have just killed my wife."

Mrs Norton was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital and later transferred to Royal Preston Hospital where she died the same day.

A post-mortem examination showed she suffered severe head injuries.

On Monday, Norton admitted her murder, the child sex offence and a string of other historic sexual assaults against another child victim.

Sentencing him to life imprisonment, the judge added: "Your wickedness is difficult to comprehend.

"The reason for your decision to take the life of your wife of 46 years is hard to understand.

"It is said that you could not bear the thought that she would have to live with the knowledge of your sexual offending and that she would be unable to cope.

"The perverse reasoning appears to be that you were in some sense sparing her anguish, that it was kinder to kill her than to let her live in the shadow of your shame. And you killed her with a hammer in the way that has been described."

David Fish QC, representing Norton, said: "He spent the most of that January in bed, not knowing what to do and where to turn. He had became like an automaton.

"His mood was very low and he was completely fearful for the future.

"He now accepts that what he did was entirely inexcusable. He does not invite me to submit there was any good reason at all for his actions or in any way that his poor wife had contributed to these events.

"The defendant's belief was that in some way he was acting for the best."

Norton was sentenced to a total of seven years for the 12 counts of sexual touching, to run concurrently.

Outside court, Detective Sergeant Andy Lawless, from Lancashire Constabulary's major investigation team, said: "This is a shocking crime in which Norton violently murdered his wife as she slept by repeatedly striking her over the head with a hammer.

"Despite contacting police to admit killing his wife, Norton has since repeatedly denied his involvement and I am relieved for the family that he has finally taken responsibility for his actions in pleading guilty.

"This is a truly horrendous crime and I only hope today's sentence provides some comfort to Janet's family and friends who continue to miss Janet every day."