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Pensioner who 'snapped' during first lockdown and killed wife is jailed

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3-min read
Anthony Williams was found guilty of manslaughter but cleared of murdering his wife Ruth during lockdown. (PA/Gwent Police)
Anthony Williams was found guilty of manslaughter but cleared of murdering his wife Ruth during lockdown. (PA/Gwent Police)

A pensioner who was cleared of murdering his wife after strangling her to death in the first coronavirus lockdown has been jailed for five years.

Anthony Williams said he "choked the living daylights" out of 67-year-old Ruth after feeling depressed and anxious five days into the shutdown last year.

The 70-year-old said he "snapped" in bed at their home in Cwmbran, South Wales, and choked her after she told him to calm down.

A jury cleared him of murder on Monday but he pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Judge Paul Thomas, sentencing on Thursday, said the incident on the morning of March 28 was "tragic" but Williams' mental state was "severely affected at the time".

“The overwhelming greatest tragedy here is a lady of 67 who had so much to live for, had her life ended by an act of great violence at the hands, literally, of a man she loved for very nearly 50 years," the judge said.

Swansea Crown Court heard previously that Williams had not been sleeping because of "trivial" fears he would run out of money because he couldn't go to the bank to get cash.

He agreed with police that he was responsible for killing his wife of 46 years.

Williams told detectives he put his hands around Ruth's throat when she told him to calm down, then chased her downstairs and grabbed her by the throat as she tried to unlock the front door and escape.

He said he found himself "throttling her to death" and Ruth was found slumped on the house porch with keys in her hand.

She has suffered haemorrhaging in her eyes, face and mouth – consistent with strangulation – and five neck fractures.

A pathologist did not rule out the use of a dressing gown cord found in the home.

Ruth Williams was not murdered, jurors at Swansea Crown Court found. (PA/Gwent Police)
Ruth Williams was not murdered, jurors at Swansea Crown Court found. (PA/Gwent Police)

After being arrested, Williams told officers: "I am sorry, I just snapped, I am sorry."

The court was told the couple's 40-year-old daughter Emma Williams said they were not argumentative and described her father as a "gentle giant" who "wouldn't hurt a fly".

But he had begun showing signs of strange behaviour from January last year, claiming he would lose the couple's home and had "obsessed" about turning lights off to save money, Emma said – though they had £148,000 in savings and £18,000 in their current account.

He had come to believe nobody would leave the house again as the pandemic took off.

Williams told police he was worried about buying new shoes and fixing the roof. He found lockdown "really hard" and not coped since retiring from his factory job.

Dr Alison Witts, a psychologist, said his depression and anxiety were "heightened" by lockdown and impaired his self-control, and that after retiring he lost his sense of purpose and structure.

However, another psychologist, Dr Damian Gamble, said Williams had no documented history of depression and had "no psychiatric defences" available, telling the court the defendant "knew what he was doing at the time".

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