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8 December 2010, 15:31
A woman accused of murdering her sister after she told her she needed to try to get over the death of her daughter, told a court today that the attack ``wasn't deliberate''.
The body of Karen Barton, 51, was found by dog walkers in a field off Rentain Road, Chartham, near Canterbury, Kent, shortly after midnight on May 9. She had been stabbed 27 times.
Phoebe Barton, 50, who lived with her sister in nearby Highland Road, is accused of murdering her some time between May 7 and 10. She denies the charge.
Giving evidence at Maidstone Crown Court, Barton said that despite living together, she and her sister lived separate lives and were rarely in the house at the same time.
``I never really used to talk to her,'' she said. ``We were like strangers really.''
The sisters, who had grown up in the house with their parents and nine other siblings, had each had a daughter, and brought them up together as neither woman had a husband or partner.
Jurors previously heard that after Barton's daughter, Rachel, died in a car crash in 2008, she found it hard to cope and started drinking heavily.
Barton admitted that her sister tried to help her but she did not respond to her offers. ``I did find it very hard to talk to her,'' she said.
She told the court that on the night she died Karen Barton had suggested they go for a walk in the fields around the village.
Barton said she had drunk enough beer to make her ``way over the driving limit'', but that her sister was sober and the pair were ``bickering''.
``She just said to me that I had to buck up and help myself. I wasn't really listening to her. I wouldn't really answer her, only to say 'it's got nothing to do with you','' she said.
Cross-examining her, prosecutor Jonathan Higgs said: ``She was trying to get you to look after yourself.''
Barton answered: ``That's not the way I looked at it.''
She continued: ``She said to me that people lose children and they lose people they love and they've got to get over it.
``It's etched in my mind.
``I started screaming and shouting at her, saying she didn't know what it was like.''
Barton, who earlier admitted that she had a quick temper and could sometimes be aggressive, said her sister then grabbed a chunk of her hair and pulled it out.
She said that in retaliation, she then started hitting her with her rucksack until she fell to the ground and she knelt on her body to restrain her.
She added: ``We were fighting each other.''
Barton, who proceeded to stab her sister with a large kitchen knife she kept in the bag, said: ``I didn't look in my rucksack, I just put my hand in there.
``I don't know what was going through my mind.''
Barton, who sat in the witness box as she gave her evidence, bent her head forwards as she said of the stabbing: ``It wasn't deliberate.
``I am telling the truth, I don't know why I hurt my sister. I didn't want to hurt her.''
The knife used in the attack was later found in bushes nearby and a clump of Barton's hair was found in the dead woman's hand.
After the discovery of Karen Barton's body a manhunt was launched for the defendant but she was not found until two police officers came across her walking through the nearby village of Chilham four days later.
Jurors have been told that Barton has pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter but she denies murdering her sister.
The trial continues.