A pensioner who strangled his wife to death during the first Covid national lockdown has been jailed for five years.
Anthony Williams, 70, told police he ‘literally choked the living daylights’ out of wife of 46 years Ruth Williams, 67, at their home in Cwmbran, South Wales, on March 28 last year.
He was cleared of murder after claiming fears around the pandemic caused him to ‘snap’ following a period of depression and anxiety.
The retired factory worker, from Brynglas, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
A psychologist argued Williams’ mental health issues were ‘heightened’ at the time of the attack, which ‘substantially’ impaired his ability to exercise self-control.
Judge Paul Thomas told Swansea Crown Court the incident was ‘tragic’ but that Williams’ mental state was ‘severely affected at the time’.
He said: ‘The overwhelming greatest tragedy here is a lady of 67 who had so much to live for, had her life ended by an act of great violence at the hands, literally, of a man she loved for very nearly 50 years.’
Williams claimed his partner had told him to ‘get over it’ when he expressed ‘trivial’ fears over money on the night of the attack.
He began strangling her in bed before chasing her downstairs and ‘throttling her to death’ as she tried to unlock the front door to escape.
Mrs Williams was taken to hospital after being found slumped on the couple’s porch with a pair of keys in her hand.
She died after suffering haemorrhaging in her eyes, face and mouth, as well as five neck fractures.
Her cause of death was given as pressure to the neck, with a pathologist saying the lack of a ligature mark did not rule out use of a ‘soft’ dressing gown cord found at their home.
Williams told officers ‘I am sorry, I just snapped, I am sorry’ as he was arrested at the scene.
The couple’s daughter, Emma Williams, 40, described her dad as ‘a gentle giant who wouldn’t hurt a fly’ in court.
She said her parents spent ‘90% of their time together’ but she had never even heard either of them ‘raise their voice’ at one another.
However, she added Williams had started behaving strangely in January 2020 as he worried about losing his home.
He became ‘obsessed’ with turning off lights and heating – despite the couple having £148,000 in their savings account and £18,000 in their current account.
The pensioner believed ‘no-one was ever leaving the house again’ as he spent hours watching news on the coronavirus pandemic.
In police interviews, he admitted he had been finding lockdown ‘really, really hard’ just five days in and had ‘not coped very well’.
The couple ‘didn’t have much of a social life’ but Mrs Williams was ‘happy’ since retiring from Asda four years earlier, despite being diagnosed with depression herself, the court heard.
Psychologist Dr Alison Witts said Williams’s factory job had been ‘one of his main coping mechanisms’ for his ‘neurotic disposition’ – but he ‘lost all structure and sense of purpose’ when he retired.
Another psychologist, Dr Damian Gamble, had argued that Williams had no documented history of suffering a depressive illness.
He said the pensioner had ‘no psychiatric defences’ available to him, saying he believed Williams ‘knew what he was doing at the time’.