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EDITIONS
Monday, 27 May, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Axe killer not guilty of murder
Jan Charlton
Charlton claimed she was provoked to kill
A former escort girl who killed her lover with an axe at their West Yorkshire home has been cleared of murder.

Janet Charlton, 36, wept and mouthed "sorry" to the public gallery as she was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for five years.

The verdict came on the fourth day of deliberations at Leeds Crown Court.

Charlton admitted inflicting 20 blows to the head and shoulders of Danny O'Brien, but denied murder - claiming she acted in self defence when Mr O'Brien threatened to kill her and abuse and kill her three-year-old daughter.

'Extremely depraved'

Judge Norman Jones QC, the Recorder of Leeds, said she had committed a "grave offence" which left him with no choice but to give her a custodial sentence.

Mr O'Brien, 40, was found lying naked, gagged, blindfolded and handcuffed in bedroom of their house in Midgley, Wakefield, on 23 May 2001.

He still had the axe sticking out of his head.

The judge told Charlton: "You lost your self-control.

"You were imbued with the desire to kill or cause very serious bodily injury to Danny O'Brien.

"He was a flawed man - having sexual proclivities described by Professor Eastman as extremely depraved.

Promiscuous practices

"I am satisfied that he introduced you to some of these practices although to keep him happy you were quite happy to go along with them.

"Your own attitude to sex was relaxed if not promiscuous and you were more ready to indulge in these practices than others may have been."

The prosecution told the court Charlton killed Mr O'Brien as an action of "revenge" because he intended to end their relationship and return to his former girlfriend.

But during her trial the court heard that Charlton told police her partner had boasted to her about being a child killer.

She said he had threatened her daughter Amy and he had "killed kids before".

Danny O'Brien
Danny O'Brien: Struck more than 20 times

"He's a dangerous man and I knew 100% that he would if he got her [Amy]," Charlton told detectives.

Defence witnesses also told the court Charlton had become the victim of "Battered Woman Syndrome".

Professor Nigel Eastman, who spent more than five hours assessing Charlton in February this year, told the court this was why she "flipped" and hacked Mr O'Brien to death.

He said: "He [Mr O'Brien] was a man who was deeply abnormal and unpredictable."

In his summing-up Judge Jones told the jurors that they had three choices of verdicts.

They could find Charlton guilty of murdering Danny O'Brien, convict her of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation, or acquit her if they believed she was acting in lawful self-defence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carole Jones
"A jury at Leeds Crown Court found her guilty of manslaughter"

Click here to go to Leeds
See also:

27 May 02 | England
08 May 02 | England
23 Apr 02 | England
11 Apr 02 | England
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