Life sentence for dying pensioner in double killing

Jean and Sarah Redfern
Jean and Sarah Redfern
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A MAN who killed his wife and daughter while suffering from the side-effects of powerful drugs he was taking to treat his incurable cancer has been jailed for life.

Retired gas fitter Peter Redfern, 70, admitted strangling his wife Jean before later attacking their daughter Sarah with a hammer when she came home from work.

Peter Redfern

Peter Redfern

Sheffield Crown Court heard the pensioner phoned 999 after the killings at the family’s home in Wath-upon-Dearne, South Yorkshire, and told the police operator: “My name is Redfern, I have just killed my wife and daughter.”

Both women were found with their heads covered by plastic bags and with electrical cable round their necks last July.

Redfern, described as having lived a “blameless life”, had two months earlier been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of bone marrow cancer, and signed up for national drug trials to treat the disease.

He had twice come off different cocktails of chemotherapy drugs, which both included Dexamethasone, a type of steroid used to treat a number of conditions, after suffering “significant adverse” side-effects, the court heard.

Expert reports referred to in court revealed that a “small number of cases” of Dexamethasone treatment had led to “adverse psychiatric events”.

The court had accepted a plea of manslaughter with diminished responsibility for the killing of his wife, owing to depression which can lead to “impulsive conduct and impairment of judgment”.

But sentencing Redfern to life in prison yesterday, Mr Justice Males said there was no question of reduced responsibility for what he did to his daughter, who “suffered a cruel death at the hands of her own father”.

“You had hitherto lived a blameless life and I accept that on the evidence these tragic events would never have taken place if not for the side-effects of the drugs which you had been taking,” he said.

“Although in the case of your daughter’s killing, there is no question of a plea of diminished responsibility.”

He said that despite his mental state Redfern knew what he was doing and had time to think about it as he waited for Sarah to return home.

“Having killed your wife apparently on the spur of the moment, you made a deliberate and dreadful decision that you would kill your daughter too,” he said.

“She was a young woman with most of her life before her, happy in her job as a shop assistant, and appreciated by those with whom she worked.

“Even though you were depressed, you knew what you were doing, you planned how you would do it and you had time to think about it while you waited for your daughter to come home.”

Judge Males said the three of them had formed a close and reserved family unit with little or no outside social life but still paid tribute to the family members who would continue to love and miss them.

For the killing of his wife, Redfern was sentenced to 12 years and for the murder of his daughter he received a life sentence with a minimum term of 17 years, to be served concurrently.

Mark George QC, mitigating, told the court the actions of his client on July 22 had “come as the most appalling, devastating blow to everyone involved in the case”. He added: “He has never really been able to explain why he killed Jean. He has always maintained that the only thing he could think of was that it must in some way be linked to the treatment he had for the cancer.”