Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dream killer 'should walk free'

Brian and Christine Thomas
The trial heard the couple were childhood sweethearts

A man who strangled his wife while he had a dream about an intruder should be set free whatever the outcome of his murder trial, a court has heard.

Brian Thomas, 59, of Neath accepts he killed Christine, 57, in their camper van in Aberporth, Ceredigion, but blamed it on a sleep disorder.

Jurors at Swansea Crown Court have to reach a verdict of not guilty or of not guilty by reason of insanity.

A psychiatrist for the prosecution said she did not think he posed a risk.

Tests commissioned by both the prosecution and the defence were carried out on Mr Thomas as he slept following his claims of a sleep disorder.

Both sleep experts agreed his behaviour was consistent with automatism, which meant at the time he killed his wife, his mind had no control over what his body was doing.

But the jury has been told there are two types of automatism: insane automatism and non-insane automatism, which they will have to decide between for their verdict.

Police at the scene
The court has heard how the couple were disturbed by "boy racers" earlier

Dr Caroline Jacob, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists who has practised at high security psychiatric hospital Broadmoor, gave evidence for the prosecution.

She said after looking at the evidence she favoured a verdict of insane automatism but acknowledged that was for the jury to decide.

Defending barrister Elwen Evans QC asked whether Mr Thomas was in need of the sort of psychiatric help a patient in Broadmoor would receive.

She replied in her view sending him to a psychiatric unit was not necessary.

She said: "Mr Thomas posed no real risk of repeating his behaviour.

"It would be impossible to completely exclude it happening again, but the chances of it happening again are very, very rare."

Ms Evans said if found guilty due to insane automatism the only outcome would be to send Mr Thomas to a psychiatric hospital under a restriction order.

Dr Jacob said she did not think that was necessary and favoured "an absolute discharge".

She acknowledged a different psychiatrist might take a different view.

Missed medication

The court heard that medication that Mr Thomas usually took to control the disorder had been stopped while the couple were on holiday.

The couple - childhood sweethearts who were married for 40 years with two daughters - had driven 60 miles to the seaside village of Aberporth in July 2008.

They had originally parked in a car park on the seafront but had been disturbed in the night by young drivers doing wheel spins and handbrake turns.

As a result they moved onto a pub car park for the night.

The jury previously heard a recording of Mr Thomas's emergency call in which he frantically told the operator "I think I've killed my wife. Oh my god."

Prosecuting barrister Paul Thomas QC, has described the case as "highly unusual".

He said the defendant was charged with the murder of his wife, whose death he accepted causing.

But the barrister said the prosecution did not seek a murder or manslaughter conviction.

Instead, he said the prosecution would be arguing for the "special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity".

The alternative, the jury was told, would be "a simple verdict of not guilty".

The case continues.



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