Ex-soldier, 80, goes to jail for killing wife with dog lead

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AN 80-year-old former soldier from West Yorkshire who killed his wife of 53 years by strangling her with a dog lead after hitting her with a hammer has been jailed for three years.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Royal British Legion stalwart Clement Callaghan killed his wife Eileen, 76, because he was determined to commit suicide during a bout of severe depression and believed she would not be able to cope with life without him.

Callaghan, who served in the Royal Artillery at the time of the Korean War but did not see active service, admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing.

The court heard Callaghan first hit his wife with a hammer at their home in Haworth, near Keighley, and then strangled her with a red dog lead.

Earlier that day, on August 4, last year, he had taken her for her usual Saturday morning hairdressing appointment.

After killing Mrs Callaghan, the defendant drove to a lay-by outside Haworth where he tried to kill himself by cutting his neck and groin as well as taking a large amount of tablets.

But, the court heard, he was found by passers-by and paramedics and doctors saved his life.

Judge Roger Thomas was told he had written a series of notes which were found in the car describing why he done it.

On one of the packets of tablets he wrote “not the doctors fault” and described how he been storing the pills over a period of time.

He also wrote: “I’m sorry.”

Grey-haired Callaghan, who was wearing a beige V-neck jumper over a checked shirt and light brown cord trousers, was allowed to sit next to his lawyers in court because he could not hear the judge from the dock.

When the judge began sentencing him by stressing how he had lived an “entirely blameless” and useful life until the tragic events of last summer, the defendant said: “I’ve never had a parking ticket.”

Judge Thomas heard how the couple were married in 1959 after a number of years of courting. They had no children.

The court was told how Callaghan developed a severe depressive illness in the weeks before the tragedy.

The judge heard how the pensioner had visited his GP a number of times and began to worry about otherwise trivial problems.

He stockpiled paracetemol tablets and planned to commit suicide.

The judge heard how Callaghan told a nurse in hospital after his suicide attempt: “Why did they have to find me? I want to die.”

He was also told how a large amount of cash was found in the house which, it appeared, the defendant had accumulated to pay for the couple’s funerals.

They did not have children.

The judge said that although Callaghan “provokes obvious sympathy” he deliberately killed his wife.

He said he could not agree to a plea from Peter Moulson QC, defending, who asked Judge Thomas to suspend any jail term because “there could not be, perhaps, more exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Moulson also told the judge his client had remarked that: “Life in the Army had prepared him for life at Armley (Leeds Prison).”

Handing down the three year sentence the judge told the court that as the defendant had already served around six months on remand, it would not be too long before he was released.

Callaghan, of Ivy Bank Lane, Haworth, waved to family members who had gathered in the public gallery as he was led from the court by a security officer.