Bristol mum bludgeoned to death with a lump hammer
Saturday, October 24, 2009, 07:00
A man who bludgeoned his partner to death with a lump hammer while in the grip of psychosis has been told he may never be released from jail.
Paul Ford, aged 51, told police he thought he had hit mother-of-five Debra Ford "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of times in the face at the home they shared in Oldland Common.
He was jailed indefinitely at Bristol Crown Court yesterday for what a judge described as a "truly terrible" killing, which left his victim unrecognisable.
The court heard the couple shared the same surname because Mrs Ford, 45, had previously been married to the defendant's brother Geoffrey, with whom she had two children, and had also been married to his brother Steve.
Her three other children were by another man.
Ford initially faced a murder charge but pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Doctors later confirmed a combination of drug use, post-accident stress disorder and depression all contributed to his psychosis at the time.
Imposing an indefinite sentence for public protection, Mr Justice Royce said Ford would serve a minimum of three years before he could be considered for release. But he stressed that he considered Ford to be dangerous and, if it was deemed appropriate by the Parole Board, he could face the rest of his life behind bars.
Ray Tully, prosecuting, told the court the couple's relationship, which had started in 2007, was "volatile on both sides".
In the 48 hours leading up to the killing they were seen in two pubs; in one Ford scuffled with a man and in the other Debra was seen "goading" the defendant.
Mr Tully said Ford attacked his partner in the living room of their home at The Clamp, Oldland Common, on the evening of September 3 last year.
"She was battered round the head with such force her facial features became indiscernible," said Mr Tully.
"He walked next door, still carrying the hammer, he spoke to a neighbour and asked her to call the police.
"He said: 'I hit her, I killed her, I done it so my boys will be safe'."
Mr Tully said Debra Ford had for a long time associated with a large number of people who led a criminal lifestyle.
He said that, at the time of her death, she was waiting to be sentenced for dishonesty and drug supply, and had been a regular user of amphetamine and cannabis.
Mr Tully said: "There is clear evidence Debra Ford could be argumentative and manipulative.
"Her daughter said that she also suffered from bad health, having had surgery in 2003 for an abscess to her back which made her wheelchair bound. Thereafter she walked with calipers and used walking sticks to get about and she was considered frail and vulnerable."
On the day of the killing Ford ate with his parents and brothers and told Geoffrey: "You know I'm an angry man. I'm an angry man at the best of times."
He was then seen to turn up at The Clamp, and was alone with Debra when he unleashed the fatal attack.
The court heard Ford told police: "We had a scuffle and I just did her. I don't know where I got it (the hammer) from. I just grabbed it from something. I thought that there were people upstairs; I thought I was being trapped and cornered. I'm turning into a paranoid wreck. I've had so much hassle; I thought I was being trapped."
Ignatius Hughes, defending, said that in June 2008 his client was "on the brink" psychologically and had a long history of depression for which he had been prescribed medication.
He said it would be impossible to establish what degree of real threats Ford experienced as opposed to his perceived threats because of psychosis.
Mr Hughes said the relationship was the catalyst, which made a re-occurrence most unlikely.
The majority of psychiatrists who examined Ford did not conclude it would be appropriate for him to be treated in a psychiatric institution.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Royce told Ford: "This was a truly terrible killing. The lives of those closest to her have been terribly scarred in consequence."