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Monday, August 10, 1998 Published at 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK


Killer wife walks free after 'marriage from hell'

A woman who endured a "marriage from hell" has walked free from court after a judge decided not to jail her for stabbing her violent husband to death.

The decision not to jail mother-of-five Diane Clark, 42, has been welcomed by women's groups as she spoke of hoping to start her life again.

Judge Gerald Gordon sentenced her to three years probation after hearing she was regularly beaten by her husband Graham Clark, 46, and forced to have sex.

'Fuse of provocation'

He spoke of a "smoking fuse of provocation" which caused her to snap and behave out of character.

The Old Bailey courtroom heard how Clark cracked last September after her husband ordered her to leave their Surrey home.

He said he would get bags for her from the loft and as he went upstairs Clark armed herself with a knife.

She returned to the bedroom where she followed her husband and stabbed him four times in the back and left shoulder.

Peter Feinberg QC, defending, said Clark had endured years of abuse from her husband.

Misguided jealousy

He said: "This was a marriage beset by bouts of, at first, drunken violence and forced sex and towards the end, violence and forced sex without even the drink."

"Coupled with that there was unbridled and totally misguided jealousy - jealousy that prevented Mrs Clark from even seeing a male doctor

"Having lived in what some people may describe as a marriage from hell for some 20 years and having to cope with the knowledge of what she has done since she killed her husband our submission is that she has already received the severest punishment that anyone could be given."

Steven Kramer QC, prosecuting, said the Crown accepted her guilty plea to manslaughter "on the basis of provocation" and offered no evidence against her in respect of a charge of murder.

Judge Gordon said he accepted she acted under provocation.

"It is not clear whether it was provocation that led to a sudden ignition of what is sometimes called the smoking fuse of provocation, or whether it was a direct result of his conduct on that day or a combination of the two.

'Out of character'

"What is clear is that as a result of your own state of health, against the background of your marital history and as a reaction to your husband's behaviour, I think you snapped and behaved in a way which was totally out of character."

Speaking afterwards, Clark said: "I'm glad it's all over. I'm very relieved. My overwhelming worry has always been for the children."

She described how her marriage had been troubled from the start, saying: "You always expect things to get better. It was the children who kept us going.

" He would never have let me go. If I had left he would have followed me. He would never have let me go.

"It was a Catch 22 situation all the time. If he had let me take the children I would have gone. I simply want to start my life again."

Hilary Tipping, director of Domestic Violence Care described the sentence as "a brilliant decision" and there was also support from Justice for Women and Families Need Fathers.

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