Page last updated at 20:00 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 21:00 UK

Man cleared of canal boat murders

William Cranston
William Cranston told the court he "lost his rag"

A man who stabbed his partner and his best friend to death after he found them having sex on his canal boat has been cleared of their murders.

William Cranston was convicted of the manslaughter, by reason of provocation, of 39-year-old Kay Morton and 55-year-old Paul Wilkins.

The killings happened on a narrow boat in Stoke Hammond, Buckinghamshire, in September, Reading Crown Court heard.

Cranston, 44, will be sentenced at Kingston Crown Court on 22 July.

The court heard Cranston, Ms Morton and Mr Wilkins had been drinking at a nearby pub before returning to the narrow boat where they continued drinking and smoking cannabis.

The CPS recognises that a jury must be free to apply its own standards of reasonable provocation and accepts the verdict in this case
Charles Ward-Jackson of the CPS

Cranston went to bed but later woke up to find his partner and friend having sex.

He told police after the stabbings: "Paul jumped up and came towards me.

"I can't remember picking up the knife. When he came towards me, I just sort of lashed out to find out what was going on.

"Literally five seconds later, they were both on the floor bleeding to death, and I've got a knife in my hand."

Cranston called 999 and gave the pair chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but they could not be revived.

The court was also told Cranston's baby son, Kevin, had died the previous February on the sofa where he discovered the pair.

Kevin, who was 55 days old, was named after Cranston's brother, who was killed in a house fire in Australia.

'Ultimate betrayal'

Cranston told the court: "I can't believe this has happened to everybody. I just walked in there and lost my rag completely."

Psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph, who examined Cranston, said he had suffered "the ultimate betrayal" by Ms Morton, and that catching the pair having sex on the sofa where his son died was "the last straw".

Speaking after the hearing, Charles Ward-Jackson of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said the case was brought "on the basis that the deliberate stabbing of two people, even in circumstances of sexual infidelity, could not be justified as manslaughter by virtue of provocation".

"The CPS recognises that a jury must be free to apply its own standards of reasonable provocation and accepts the verdict in this case," he said.

"Mr Cranston stands convicted of two counts of manslaughter, and any sentence in this extremely serious case is likely to be substantial.

"This was an appalling case and our thoughts are with the families and friends of Kay Morton and Paul Wilkins at this time."

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