Thursday 17 October 2019

Sally Challen to face fresh trial after murder conviction quashed

David Challen outside the High Court in London after his mother, Georgina Challen, known as Sally, won an appeal against her conviction for the murder of her husband Richard in a hammer attack at their home in Surrey Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
David Challen outside the High Court in London after his mother, Georgina Challen, known as Sally, won an appeal against her conviction for the murder of her husband Richard in a hammer attack at their home in Surrey Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Sian Harrison

A woman who killed her husband in a hammer attack will face a fresh trial after her murder conviction was overturned in a landmark decision.

Georgina Challen, known as Sally, says she killed 61-year-old Richard Challen in August 2010 after 40 years of being controlled and humiliated by him.

She was jailed for life for his murder following a trial at Guildford Crown Court in 2011.

But her conviction was quashed and a retrial ordered at the Court of Appeal in London on Thursday, after a panel of three judges ruled it was unsafe in light of new evidence which was not available at the time of her first trial.

Supporters of Georgina Challen outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, where her 'landmark' murder conviction challenge after she bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer will be heard by leading judges on Wednesday Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Supporters of Georgina Challen outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, where her 'landmark' murder conviction challenge after she bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer will be heard by leading judges on Wednesday Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

During a two-day hearing, the court heard evidence relating to Challen's state of mind at the time of the killing and the issue of "coercive control".

Speaking outside after the ruling, her son David Challen, 31, said: "It's an amazing moment.

"The courts have acknowledged this case needs to be looked at again, as we have always said as a family.

"The abuse our mother suffered, we felt, was never recognised properly and her mental conditions were not taken into account.

"As sons, we get another shot for our story to be heard, the events that led to our father's death to be heard, and for our mother to have another shot at freedom - a freedom she has never had since the age of 15."

Harriet Wistrich, one of Challen's lawyers, told a press conference: "We're pleased that whatever might be the ultimate outcome, we have managed to raise awareness and a much deeper understanding of the concept of coercive control, which is such a recent one."

At her trial, Challen, 65, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted killing the former car dealer but denied murder, claiming diminished responsibility.

The prosecution case was that it was the action of a jealous woman who suspected infidelity.

She was found guilty of murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years, later reduced on appeal by four years.

Quashing her conviction on Thursday, three senior judges ruled fresh evidence given by a psychiatrist undermined the safety of her conviction.

The psychiatrist's evidence was that Challen was suffering from two mental disorders - a borderline personality disorder and a severe mood disorder, probably bipolar affective disorder - at the time of the killing.

Challen, who attended the appeal over a video link from HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey, burst into tears as she heard the result and there were cheers and applause from relatives and supporters in the public gallery.

However, the panel of judges refused to substitute a manslaughter conviction and ordered Challen must face a retrial on a charge of murder.

Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, said: "The Court of Appeal heard that, in the opinion of a consultant forensic psychiatrist, the appellant was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing.

"This evidence was not available at the time of the trial and the court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial."

The judges also declined to hear an application by Challen's lawyers for her to be released on bail.

Her legal team are expected to pursue the bail bid at a future crown court hearing.

The court ordered Challen will have to have the fresh murder charge put to her within two months.

David Challen later tweeted that they would be applying for bail, adding they would ask the Crown Prosecution Service not to continue with the case.

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News