'Wicked' wife, 81, jailed for killing husband

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Audrey Hingston made an emotional televised appeal for information after the brutal murder of her war hero husband, she appeared every inch the doting widow.

When Audrey Hingston made an emotional televised appeal for information after the brutal murder of her war hero husband, she appeared every inch the doting widow.

With her tidy grey hair and large, round spectacles, the 81-year-old tearfully described her final moments with her late husband, Eric, who was fatally stabbed as he lay in bed.

Yesterday, the extent of her elaborate web of deceit was exposed as Hingston was jailed for two years for killing her 83-year-old husband.

Plymouth Crown Court was told she had at first attributed the murder to two burglars she claimed had broken into their flat at Plympton, Devon, in August last year. When forensic examinations disproved that she then claimed to have concocted a story to hide the fact her husband had, in fact, committed suicide. It was only after she was charged with his murder that she finally confessed to her son as he visited her in custody, the court was told.

Yesterday, the Crown accepted her plea of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility following psychiatric reports stating she was suffering from depression at the time.

Condemning Hingston's actions as "wicked", Mrs Justice Hallett said: "It is a very sad day to see a woman of your age and background in the dock, having confessed to the killing of your husband and covering your tracks in a calculating and convincing way. I cannot imagine the consequences of that night for his family and friends and for your family."

The court heard Mr Hingston, who had flown agents behind enemy lines during the Second World War as a member of Winston Churchill's Special Operations Executive, married his wife in 1985 following the deaths of their previous partners.Hingston became increasingly depressed after nursing her husband through lung, prostrate and hip problems, said Martin Meeke QC, for the prosecution. "Mr Hingston's condition caused this defendant to become depressed. It may be fair to say she resented the fact his condition so affected her way of life," he said. "She wrote to her own doctor before his death, saying: 'Don't tell me there is something else wrong with him, I'm liable to emigrate.'" At 2am on 29 August last year, Mrs Hingston plunged a seven-inch kitchen knife into her husband's chest, said Mr Meeke. She hid her jewellery in a bin liner and pulled out bedroom drawers to fake a burglary before calling police two hours later.

During six hours of police interviews, she provided descriptions of two men she knew, claiming that they had burgled the flat. She reiterated her heart-rending story on television, while police launched a large-scale murder hunt.

Two weeks after his death, Hingston herself attempted suicide, leaving behind a note which read: "Please catch these terrible people who ruined my life. I cannot live without Eric."

The following month, results from forensic tests disproved her story and she was arrested. While she initially claimed he committed suicide, she eventually told her son: "Okay, I killed him. I'd had enough and could not take any more of his illnesses and having to care for him."

Her actions were clearly linked to depression prompted by her husband's illness, said Henry Grunwold QC, for the defence. It "put an enormous strain on both of them", he said.

Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Hallett said: "All the evidence indicates you and Eric were a devoted couple and his son described the way you looked after him as brilliant - brilliant until that fatal night."