Woman given four years for killing man in knife attack

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A WOMAN has been jailed for four years after she was convicted of unlawfully killing a man she stabbed in the chest with a knife.

Janine Birch, 43, was found not guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court yesterday of murdering Martin Wheelhouse on August 16 last year but guilty of his manslaughter through of lack of intent.

The court heard the killing happened only a couple of weeks after she had been released from a previous sentence imposed for an offence of unlawful wounding and while she was staying at the home of Alexine Cowell in Portland Road, Wortley, Leeds.

Mr Wheelhouse, 41 from Bramley, Leeds was Miss Cowell’s boyfriend and he had argued with Birch on previous visits to the house.

Jailing Birch, Judge Scott Wolstenholme said she had spent much of that day drinking strong cider and got into another argument with Mr Wheelhouse after he arrived carrying a hockey stick.

“There is evidence that Mr Wheelhouse went into the bedroom where you had been asleep and assaulted you there. What is clear is that thereafter downstairs the two of you continued to shout at each other.”

Whether she had been struck again as she claimed, by the time she got the knife the evidence from Miss Cowell was that Mr Wheelhouse was outside and not a threat.

“But by that time you were in a furious and drunken temper, you selected a knife from the knife block in the kitchen, approached him and stabbed him once in the upper chest.”

The wound penetrated six inches and severed an artery causing massive internal bleeding.

He said there was not much bleeding externally so she might not have appreciated the seriousness of his injury when he collapsed and she behaved with “extreme callousness and spite”, standing on his body, spitting corn she was eating at him and continuing to abuse him while he lay dying.

This happened as Miss Cowell was making a 999 call for help.

The judge said all that had happened in front of an eight-year-old child who was also in the house. “This was senseless, drunken, lethal violence on your part, tragically it cost a man his life.”

He said the jury had rejected Birch’s claim of self-defence and had not found it proved that she intended to kill or cause serious injury,

He accepted Birch had herself been the victim of violence from other men in the past but he said the effect on her victim’s family had been devastating.

Alistair MacDonald QC, defending Birch, said because of her history at the hands of others she was vulnerable.

After the case Mr Wheelhouse’s son Jason, 23, thanked the police and the prosecution team for their efforts. “Whilst manslaughter wasn’t the verdict we were hoping for, this conviction is helping us with our grieving process.”

But other friends and relatives were clearly unhappy outside the court saying “this just isn’t right”.