‘Killed again’ — (Gazette Live)

SSRI Ed note: "Decent, caring" man in withdrawal from medication for depression kills prostitute. Killed wife 16 years earlier. Mental illness blamed.

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Gazette Live

Evening Gazette

Convicted wife-killer George Leighers took a second woman’s life – only months after mental health experts declared him safe to live unsupervised on Teesside, a court heard.

Hours after stabbing a teenage vice girl to death with a bayonet he wrote the chilling message in his diary “Killed again – should have taken my medication.”

Leighers, 46, of Montrose Street in Middlesbrough, is on trial at Teesside Crown Court.

He has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 19-year-old prostitute Sarah Jane Coughlan in August last year.

Prosecutor Franz Muller QC told the jury that he anticipated no dispute that Leighers had killed the teenager.

The issue in the case, he said, was whether his mental condition at the time amounted to “diminished responsibility”.

It was that same defence, said Mr Muller, which resulted in his conviction in 1987 also at Teesside Crown Court for the manslaughter of his wife Rita, mother of his three children.

She had been battered to death in bed with a statuette in their County Durham home.

On that occasion, he said, although charged with murder, he had offered a guilty plea to manslaughter which was accepted by the Crown.

Ordered to be detained indefinitely under Mental Health Act provisions, he was initially locked up in a secure hospital unit, said Mr Muller.

But six years later, he was discharged into the care of a supervised Teesside nursing home where he was described as “a model resident”.

Today, Mr Muller told the jury that nearly a week after the killing of Sarah Jane Coughlan, Leighers flagged down a police car in Inverness in the early hours and told officers: “I want to report a murder.”

He told them “it was a lass” and that he had “done it” the previous Wednesday morning in his house in Middlesbrough.

Mr Muller said Leighers told the officers the woman concerned was a prostitute and that he had been suffering from depression and mood swings.

Subsequent contact with Cleveland Police, said Mr Muller, resulted in Teesside officers forcing entry into the house in Montrose Street where they found the decaying body of Sarah Jane, lying on a bed and covered in a duvet.

At the side of the bed, he said, was a blood-stained bayonet with its sheath on the floor at the other side.

A Home Office pathologist called to the scene found six stab wounds on the body, one penetrating the heart, and a further gaping injury, apparently caused by the edge of a knife or similar implement.

The police search of the house also revealed a cache of the daily medication Leighers was supposed to be taking, making it appear that he had not been taking the required dosage on a regular basis.

Interviewed by the police Leighers said he had stopped taking the tablets because he thought he could do without them, but admitted that he had then suffered from mood changes and depression.

At one point, said Mr Muller, he told officers he had heard his dead wife’s voice asking “why?”

The court had heard yesterday how, living in a small terraced house only yards from Middlebrough’s central police station, Leighers built up a circle of friends.

A regular at the Princess Alice and Scruffy Murphy’s pubs, he joined in quizzes, and as an executive member of a local mental health project, he helped run an information stand in the Cleveland Centre.

A keen walker, he regularly went on moorland hikes with members of staff at his former nursing home, keeping in touch with them when he moved out, he told the court.

People he mixed with on these activities all described him as appearing normal, placid, and showing no signs of mental illness, even though several were professionals in the field.

Despite this varied social life, Mr Muller told the jury, Leighers told friends he deliberately avoided relationships with women because he feared “it would happen again”.

But, he said, he did use prostitutes – and two in particular – who would go to his home.

Mr Muller said it was a third young vice girl who met her death at his hands in the early hours of Wednesday, August 6.

Sarah Jane and Leighers, he alleged, met up in the early morning near a newsagent’s shop in Borough Road where both had been for some early morning shopping.

In his police interview Leighers told how they had agreed on a price of #20 for sex, returned to his nearby house and went straight upstairs.

There, said Mr Muller, he punched her, and then repeatedly stabbed her with the bayonet, a wartime souvenir handed down from his father.

Throughout that day, Leighers appeared to go about his normal business, going to his local health centre for his fortnightly injection, meeting up with a colleague from the mental health project and talking to friends in the pub.

Almost all, said Mr Muller, described him as appearing perfectly normal, talking about taking a trip to Scotland.


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“Killer ‘Heard Wife’s Voice'” — Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England) — (Online Research Library: Questia)

February 12, 2004

Byline: Malcolm Pickering

Convicted wife-killer George Leighers spoke of hearing his dead wife’s voice 24 hours a day, a Teesside murder trial has been told.

Pub quiz team colleague and drinking pal David Smales told the jury: “We used to joke we had an extra member on the team that no-one else knew about.”

Leighers, 46, of Montrose Street, Middlesbrough, has denied the murder of 19-year-old Middlesbrough vice girl Sarah Jane Coughlan at his home in the early hours of August 6 last year.

Mr Smales was among witnesses called by the prosecution describing Leighers’ lifestyle following his release from a secure hospital order imposed after his conviction for the manslaughter of his wife Rita in 1987.

He told the jury he frequently met Leighers in the Princess Alice and Scruffy Murphy’s pubs and found him to be “a genuine, decent person”.

The manager of the Middlesbrough nursing home where Leighers spent four years of rehabilitation from the secure unit described him as “a model patient”.

Patrica Fellows, boss of The Avenue Community Nursing Home in Linthorpe, said staff had regarded him as “a success story” and described him as “caring for the other residents” and “remorseful for what he had done”.

But under cross examination she said he had a morbid interest in war memorabilia and collected anything to do with survival and the SAS.

Leighers is alleged to have stabbed Sarah Jane to death in the bedroom of his home after arranging to take her there for sex for a pounds 20 fee. …