LONDON – A man who strangled his wife in his sleep has walked from court a free man after the prosecution withdrew all charges against him.
Brian Thomas, 59, dreamt that intruders had broken into the couple’s camper van. During the nightmare he killed his wife, Christine, 57, while in a state known as automatism.
The judge told him that he had been a “decent man and a devoted husband” and bore no responsibility for his actions.
The Crown Prosecution Service described the case as unique and said that there had been less than 50 recorded instances worldwide. It had argued during the case that Thomas should be detained at a mental hospital but withdrew after evidence from three psychiatrists that it would “serve no useful purpose.”
Thomas, a retired steel worker from Neath, in south Wales, was on holiday with his wife when he woke up next to her lifeless body. The jury at Swansea Crown Court was played a recording of his 999 call and heard that he had been suicidal since her death.
Members of his family shouted “yes” as Paul Thomas QC, for the CPS, explained why the case was being withdrawn.
Both defense and prosecution had accepted at the start of the trial that Thomas was not in control of his actions at the time of the killing. The jury had been asked to decide not if he had killed his wife, but whether he was medically insane at the time.
Today they were directed to return a not guilty verdict, allowing Thomas to leave court an innocent man.
Paul Thomas told the jury: “We are no longer seeking a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. We have a continuing duty to review the case and we took the opportunity yesterday to take stock of the situation.
“It is clear from the evidence that no useful purpose would be served by Thomas being detained in a psychiatric hospital.”
Iwan Jenkins, the chief prosecutor for CPS Dyfed Powys, said: “This has been a unique case with a unique set of circumstances.