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Loving son who killed mum during epileptic fit cleared of murder after jury rule he was insane

Constable, who had a history of violent epileptic seizures, was left with no recollection of attacking his widowed mother Betty ,79, at her bungalow

JOHN ARON PHOTOGRAPHY
Nigel Constable outside Lincoln Crown Court

A loving son who killed his mother while suffering a violent epileptic fit was cleared of her murder after jury decided he was insane.

Nigel Constable, who had a history of violent epileptic seizures, was left with no recollection of attacking his widowed mother Betty ,79, at her bungalow in Lincolnshire.

The assault left Mrs Constable with “catastrophic” head injuries from which she died 48 hours later.

A jury at Lincoln Crown Court was told the 52-year-old had suffered with the disease for over 30 years but his seizures had doubled in frequency in the period leading up this mother’s death as a result of stress brought on by problems over his disability benefits and issues with his council house landlord .

Constable, of Sherburn Road, Rastrick, denied murder on September 22, 2013 on the basis that he had no control of his actions due to an epileptic fit.

The jury of eight women and four men took just 20 minutes to find him not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. Constable was not in court for the verdict and now faces being detained indefinitely in a secure hospital.

Speaking after the trial Mrs Constable’s daughter, Maureen Anthony, said: “As a family we would like it to be known that my brother loved his mother dearly and this devastating and tragic event has been the result of my brother’s health care for over 40 years.

Media Lincs Victim Betty Constable
Victim Betty Constable
 

“We hope that no other family ever has to experience anything like this but until care for the mentally ill improves in this country, unfortunately they will.

“My mother will always be in our thoughts as we move forward and continue to support Nigel in any way possible.”

During the three-day trial both the prosecution and the defence accepted that Betty Constable was killed by her son but he committed the fatal act when he had no control over what he was doing.

The jury was told that Constable was a loving son to his mother and had travelled to her home in Dunholme, north of Lincoln, to help her out with her garden on the weekend of her death.

Mrs Constable’s half-sister Barbara Egan-Wyer told the jury “He loved his mother.”

She said that Nigel Constable had problems with his landlord after moving into his council flat and this caused him stress which was likely to bring on his epilepsy.

“He had issues with the council,” she said. “He had problems getting through to them. He couldn’t turn his heating down.

“When he had an attack he sometimes landed near it. He had burned all his leg. He’s got burns all down his legs. His epilepsy is triggered by stressful situations.”

Wiliam Harbage QC, prosecuting, said “This is a sad, tragic and unusual case. It concerns the death of an elderly woman who was killed by her own son.

“He caused her very serious head injuries including a fractured skull and brain damage from which she died.

“The unusual feature of this case is that the defendant was a long-standing sufferer from epilepsy who has a history of being violent in the course of and immediately after epileptic seizures.

“He maintains he has no recollection of attacking his mother and suggests he must have done so during the course of or in the immediate aftermath of an epileptic seizure.

“He is in effect saying that he was acting as an automaton and he did not know what he was doing therefore he is not guilty of murder.

“Epilepsy is a disease of the mind. Automatism brought on by epilepsy amounts in law to insanity.

Constable told police that one moment he was sitting in the lounge doing a crossword and the next thing he was coming round to find his mother lying injured in the hallway. He said he must have had an epileptic seizure.

Two neuro psychiatrists who examined him both agreed it was probable that the fatal incident occurred when he was suffering from epileptic automatism. The court was told that Constable had been diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy at the age of nine.

Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC, defending, described Constable as “a victim of epilepsy”.

“Not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of murder does not mean Nigel Constable is at liberty. It means that he will no longer be imprisoned. He will as a matter of law be confined to a secure mental institution indefinitely.”

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