Briton who strangled wife in his sleep walks free; Man ‘had nightmare about burglar and woke to find he had strangled wife’ — (The Telegraph)

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The Telegraph

Prosecution accepts argument that Brian Thomas, 59, suffered sleep disorder and had no control over his body during attack.

London ­ Reuters Published on Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 9:21AM EST Last updated on Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 1:50PM EST

A Briton who strangled his wife during a nightmare because he believed he was attacking an intruder, walked free from court on Friday after prosecutors withdrew their case against him.

Brian Thomas, 59, of Neath in South Wales, killed his wife Christine, 57, while they were on holiday in July last year.

Prosecutors had accepted that Thomas had a sleep disorder and so had no control over his body when he attacked his wife of 40 years while they were both asleep.

“I must emphasize that the circumstances of this case are almost unique in the UK and there have been fewer than 50 instances recorded worldwide,” said Iwan Jenkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Dyfed Powys.

Mr. Thomas admitted being responsible but instead of charging him with murder or manslaughter, prosecutors had sought a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, the Press Association reported.

“The consequences of such a finding would have meant Mr. Thomas’s detention in a psychiatric hospital, but it is now clear that the psychiatrists feel that that would serve no useful purpose,” Mr. Jenkins said.

Swansea Crown Court heard Mr. Thomas regularly took anti-depressant drugs which made him impotent, and he had stopped doing so before the holiday as the couple, who slept in separate bedrooms at home, wanted to be “intimate”.

Medical experts said the sudden withdrawal of the drugs could have led to him having very vivid dreams.

The court was told the couple had been asleep in their camper van in a pub car park when they were disturbed by youths in cars performing wheel spins and so moved elsewhere.

However, Mr. Thomas then had a dream one of the youths had broken into the van and later woke to find himself next to his wife’s body, at which point he called the police.

High Court Judge Justice Davis told Mr. Thomas, who had been in custody since January, that in the eyes of the law he bore no responsibility for what he had done and said he was a “decent man and devoted husband”.

Mr. Thomas’s brother Raymond Thomas said the death and court case had been very distressing.

“They were a loving couple and always like that together,” he said. “He has always been a loving husband and a family man. This was a tragic, tragic episode and we are all very emotional.”