Wife On Trial
22 June 2011, 13:14
A jealous woman who bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer after suspecting him of infidelity was found guilty of murder today.
Georgina Challen, 57, launched a ``frenzied'' attack on retired businessman Richard, 61, as he ate lunch at the kitchen table of their former marital home in Claygate, Surrey, Guildford Crown Court heard.
The couple had been attempting to patch up their marriage after separating and living apart but Challen became enraged after discovering the former car dealer had phoned another woman.
The couple had been attempting to patch up their marriage after separating and living apart but Challen became enraged when she discovered the former car dealer had phoned another woman.
On Saturday August 14 last year, her anger ``boiled into rage'' and she set upon the Ferrari enthusiast before driving 70 miles to the notorious suicide spot of Beachy Head in East Sussex, the court was told.
Challen admitted killing her husband of 31 years as chaplains tried to coax her away from the cliff edge.
She told them: ``I killed him with a hammer. I hit him lots of times. If I can't have him, no one can.''
The former Police Federation office manager, of Ashton Place, Claygate, denied murder during her seven-day trial, claiming diminished responsibility, but the six men and six women of the jury rejected her defence.
Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Critchlow told her: ``You found yourself being eaten up with jealousy at his friendships with other women.
``You didn't want that and, as you have said, decided that if you could not have him, nobody would.''
He added: ``You are somebody who has killed the only man you had known and loved, and you will have to live knowing what you have done.''
Challen looked in despair towards her two sons, David and James, in the public gallery as she was taken away to begin her sentence.
Members of her family sobbed as the jury foreman announced the verdict and the judge passed sentence.
The trial heard that the couple enjoyed a good life together in their large detached family home before their relationship fell apart.
Over a number of years Challen came to suspect her husband was unfaithful, and began keeping a diary in which she noted when he used his Viagra tablets, kept records of his receipts and even recorded following him to a brothel.
She wrote in a December 2004 entry: ``Everyone thinks he's a ladies' man. I'm sick of his behaviour. Every time he sees a young woman he leers.''
In the autumn of 2009 Challen left her husband, having secretly bought a property nearby, and soon afterwards he began divorce proceedings.
However, by August 14 they were trying to reconcile their differences.
The couple intended to spend the day clearing out their large detached house before going on a trip to Australia and then setting up a new home together on their return.
Challen went out to buy some food, and on her return became furious after learning that her husband had called a woman called Susan Wilce while she was out.
She confronted him about his plans for the next day, believing he intended to go boating with Ms Wilce, whom he had met through an introductions agency called Dinner Dates.
Challen told jurors her husband refused to answer, saying: ``Don't question me, don't question me.''
In a fit of jealousy she then launched the attack using a hammer she had brought in her handbag, leaving him with more than 20 injuries to his head.
Asked why she killed Mr Challen, she told the court: ``I don't know, I just didn't think that he wanted to be with me.''
Challen also feared that a ``post-nuptial agreement'' her husband had suggested they sign was just a way for him to control her before issuing divorce proceedings and getting a better share of their assets, the court was told.
After the attack, Challen cleaned herself up, tidied the dishes away and covered her husband's body with old curtains.
She then drove home, switched on her computer, wrote out a suicide note and returned to the marital home, where she looked through her husband's briefcase, listened to his phone messages and checked his computer for emails.
Police later found Mr Challen's bloodied body on the kitchen floor. A hand-written note placed on it by his wife read simply: ``I love you, Sally.''
The couple's son, James, 27, told the court that his dominant father ``almost controlled'' his mother, who suffered from very low self-esteem.
He said: ``Everything was my father's way, simple as that.
``From watching television to what was on his dinner plate, to when his dinner should be there as he turned up from work, where they go to eat, what friends they see, what holidays they go on.''