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31 Aug 2011
A former golf club president who stabbed his “devoted” wife of more than 50 years with a meat thermometer, causing life-threatening injuries, has been detained in hospital.
Father-of-three Jack Duerden, 74, plunged the piercer into the side of victim Enid Duerden’s face and also gashed her throat with a knife after she refused her husband’s request for her to kill him.
The thermometer broke in the unexpected violent outburst, leaving the entire spike stuck horizontally inside the 73-year-old victim’s head. She was discovered badly injured and bleeding by neighbours and had told them she thought she was going to die.
Mrs Duerden was rushed to hospital where she had to undergo emergency surgery to remove the device and spent four days in intensive care.
She later told police that her husband had asked if there had been any poison in the house earlier in the evening before asking her to kill him. When she had refused, telling him she loved him, he had replied that she would have to die then before launching the attack at their home in Barrowford, Lancs.
The court heard that grandfather Duerden, a former president of Nelson golf club, had no previous convictions and had been in the clutches of an untreated serious psychotic condition at the time of the incident on March 29.
He admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm and was subjected to an indefinite hospital order at Burnley Crown Court where the Judge refered to him as a “good and fine man” and described the case as exceptional.
Mrs Duerden was not in court to see her husband sentenced, but some of their family, who have been regularly visiting the defendant with her at Guild Lodge hospital in Preston, were present.
The hearing was told that Mrs Duerden just wanted her husband to come home and that he was haunted by what he had done.
In part of a statement read to the court, the victim had written: “We all miss him very, very much. We all know it was Jack’s illness. If he had been himself, it would not have happened.”
Jeremy Lasker, prosecuting, said Duerden had a loving and supportive family and the case was tragic. He said that last September, the defendant fell off a ladder doing repair work at home, breaking his foot and during the course of his recovery he became ill.
The keen golfer stopped playing and began to have delusional thoughts. He told his wife he believed the police were after him and thought, wrongly, he was in debt to the tune of about £40,000 to “the gas board.”
The court heard that his relatives became concerned about his behaviour and his depression, and referred him to his doctor around three weeks before the incident, who prescribed him anti-depressants.
The tablets did not appear to work, the family returned to the GP and Duerden was given different medication.
The night before the incident the defendant had been agitated, pacing up and down the bedroom and staring out of the front window.
Duerden, plainly unwell, went downstairs and when he returned to the bedroom, he had picked up all the telephones in the house and was hugging them to his chest, muttering “You have done it now.”
The prosecutor said that at about 6.45 am, Mrs Duerden woke up, exhausted, to find her husband standing by the side of her bed, asking if there was any poison in the house.
She suggested he went downstairs and make a cup of tea, he went down and she put on her dressing gown and went to join him. The defendant was standing in the kitchen doorway, with a knife in one hand and the meat thermometer in the other.
Duerden said he wanted to die and asked if his wife would kill him. She told him she wouldn’t and she loved him.
Her husband looked at her, as if he had “nothing in his eyes,” and told her: “Well, you are going to have to die then” before plunging the thermometer into the side of her head.
Mrs Duerden believed that she passed out at that stage. The piercer entered below her right ear and went in horizontally for a number of inches, and she suffered lacerations to her throat from the knife.
Neighbours saw the victim trying to get out of the back door, with Duerden pulling her back and she was spotted banging on the window, covered in blood.
They went round to the house and the defendant told them: “She’s been saying stuff about me and so have other people.”
Mr Lasker said neighbour Sharon Walker went into the kitchen and the defendant said he had not done anything. His wife was in a chair, with blood coming from her face and mouth and saying she thought she was going to die and that that her husband had tried to kill her.
Police and an ambulance were called and the defendant was arrested. After caution, he said his wife started shouting at him and he had just gone mad and stabbed her.
Duerden pointed to the remains of the thermometer on the table and told officers: “That’s what I used.”
At the police station, he claimed he and his wife had rowed and fought, he had opened the door for the neighbours and that was when they found his wife.
The defendant was interviewed, admitted attacking his wife with the meat piercer, accepted he had used quite considerable force and said anger had led him to do it.
Defending, Robert Elias, said: “His wife loves him and wants nothing more than for him to be back with her.”
The barrister continued: “He is so full of guilt and grief that he cannot accept he will not be immediately sent to prison. He finds it impossible to understand that he is not facing prison now.”
Mr Elias said Duerden was not evil but had been in the throes of a serious psychotic condition and had “slipped through the net of his GP.”
He added:”This was a dreadful crime. He is a nice and decent man and one hopes that he gets well sooner rather than later.”
Sentencing, Judge Robert Altham described the case as exceptional and said the defendant had led an exemplary, hard-working life.
The judge told him: “You are a good and fine man. That’s clear from everything that I have read about you.”
The judge told the court: “It is simple good fortune Mrs Duerden didn’t lose her life.”
He said the prognosis for the defendant’s condition remained uncertain; doctors did not know if he was going to make a full recovery, a partial recovery or if he would relapse.
Judge Altham made a hospital order, with a restriction order, without limitation of time.