A man who killed his wife five days into the first lockdown last year in Wales has been cleared of her murder.
Anthony Williams, 70, strangled his wife, Ruth, 67, at their home in Brynglas, Cwmbran, after a period of feeling depressed and anxious and later told police he had been struggling mentally with coronavirus restrictions, his trial heard.
The jury at Swansea crown court on Monday unanimously found him not guilty of murder. Williams, who had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, is to be sentenced on Thursday.
The pensioner had told police he had suffered sleepless nights in the run-up to the attack due to “trivial” fears, including that he would run out of money because he was not able to go to his bank to take out cash from his savings.
He said he had coped “not very well” in the 18 months since his retirement from a factory making rubber and polyurethane-covered rollers, saying the couple “didn’t have much of a social life”. But he described his wife as being “happy” since her own retirement from an Asda store four years earlier.
The trial had heard differing views about his state of mind from two psychiatrists. One of them, Dr Alison Witts, argued that his anxiety and depressive illness were “heightened” by the tough coronavirus measures imposed on the UK days earlier and had impaired his ability to exercise self-control.
Another, Dr Damian Gamble said the defendant had no documented history of suffering from depression and had “no psychiatric defences” available to him, telling the court he believed Williams “knew what he was doing at the time”.
Williams was arrested on suspicion of murder at the scene on the morning of 28 March, where he told police officers: “I am sorry, I just snapped, I am sorry.”
In interviews read to the jury, he agreed with detectives that he was responsible for killing his wife of 46 years, telling them he had put his hands around her throat when they were in bed.
He said he chased his wife downstairs and again grabbed her by her throat as she tried to unlock the front door to escape. She was found slumped in the couple’s porch with a pair of keys in her hand.
Her cause of death was given as pressure to the neck, with a pathologist saying the lack of a ligature mark did not rule out use of a “soft” dressing gown cord found at their home.
The couple’s daughter, Emma Williams, 40, told the court her parents had spent “90% of their time together” and she had never heard either of them raise their voices to each other.
But while describing her father as a “gentle giant” who “wouldn’t hurt a fly”, she said he had shown signs of strange behaviour from January 2020.
This had included claiming he was going to lose the couple’s home and becoming “obsessed” with turning off lights and heating to save money, even though the couple had savings of about £148,000.
She said her father had been watching news reports on the global pandemic “all the time” and believed “no one’s ever leaving the house again”.
“I said, ‘You’re just overthinking things. You’re just watching the news all the time and getting worried with Covid and your mind is just spiralling’,” she said.
• This article was amended on 16 February 2021 because Alison Witts and Damian Gamble were described as psychologists instead of psychiatrists.