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Sally Challen family ‘overjoyed’ at decision she will not face retrial

The 65-year-old claimed she suffered years of controlling and humiliating abuse before she killed her husband Richard in August 2010.

Sally Challen as she arrives at the Old Bailey (Yui Mok/PA)
Sally Challen as she arrives at the Old Bailey (Yui Mok/PA)

The family of a woman who spent nearly a decade behind bars for killing her controlling husband with a hammer is “overjoyed” that she will not face a retrial.

Sally Challen, 65, claimed she suffered years of controlling and humiliating abuse before she killed 61-year-old Richard Challen in August 2010.

The mother-of-two, who is also known as Georgina, had been jailed for life for the murder of the former car dealer following a trial at Guildford Crown Court in 2011.

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Richard Challen was said by his wife Georgina to be controlling before his death (Surrey Police/PA)

But her conviction was quashed and a new trial ordered at the Court of Appeal in London in February, in light of new evidence about her mental state at the time.

Mrs Challen, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted manslaughter but pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband on August 14 2010 and was due to face a fresh trial on July 1.

But at a hearing before Mr Justice Edis at the Old Bailey on Friday, the prosecution announced the Crown accepted her plea to the lesser charge.

Mrs Challen appeared relieved and tearful in the courtroom packed with family and well-wishers.

Her son David Challen, who watched from the well of the court, wrote on Twitter: “As a family we are overjoyed at todays verdict and that it has brought an end to the suffering we have endured together for the past 9 years.

“Our story has become the landmark case society needs to recognise the true severity of coercive control. #SallyChallen #CoerciveControl”

In a victim impact statement read to court, her other son James Challen said: “We have lost a father and we do not seek to justify our mother’s actions.”

But he said his mother “does not deserve to be punished further”.

Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said the Crown’s decision followed a psychiatric report which concluded Mrs Challen was suffering an “adjustment disorder” at the time.

Opening the facts of the case, Ms Carberry said the Challens’ relationship had hit the rocks after 31 years of marriage but they had attempted a reconciliation in 2010.

But suspecting he was seeing another woman, the defendant brought a hammer out of her handbag and attacked him from behind as he ate lunch at the kitchen table.

Afterwards, she went to throw herself off Beachy Head and told a chaplain: “I killed him with a hammer. I hit him lots of times… If I can’t have him, no-one can.”

In her car was a note which stated: “Richard said he would take me back if I signed a post nuptial agreement.

“I said I would and we both saw solicitors yesterday. I then found out he was seeing someone and sleeping with them and had no intention of taking me back. It was all a game so he could get everything.”

When police arrived at the marital home they found the body of Mr Challen, with a hand-written note on top reading: “I love you, Sally.”

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David Challen and his brother have supported their mother (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In her police interview, Mrs Challen said her husband was controlling but she still loved him, the court heard.

She also spoke about occasions when she believed he had been unfaithful to her.

Mr Justice Edis will sentence Mrs Challen for manslaughter on Friday afternoon.

In mitigation, Clare Wade QC said Mr Challen was “domineering and controlling” towards his wife, who worked at the Police Federation.

He made “humiliating comments about her weight”, put her down and criticised her “at all turns”, Ms Wade said.

Mr Challen posed on a Ferrari next to top models and had the photo made into a Christmas card sent to their mutual friends.

The court heard “Richard pulled the strings and Sally danced”.

Mrs Challen was left “utterly betrayed” by her husband’s use of prostitutes, the court was told.

It was not until she saw a news item about one of the brothels having trafficked women that she resolved to leave him in 2009, Ms Wade said.

By April 2010, she was unhappy living alone and desperate to go back to her husband.

When she asked him to take her back, he responded with a series of conditions, including to “give up your constant interruptions when I am speaking”.

She became suspicious and anxious that he was “messing her about” but was unable to confront him, describing herself as a “meek little mouse”.

On the day of the killing, it was Mr Challen’s words “Don’t question me” that caused her to “flip” and hit him with the hammer, the court was told.

PA

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