Former butcher, 90, tells court he stabbed wife to ‘quieten her down’

·4-min read
(Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)
(Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

A 90-year-old former butcher has claimed he stabbed his ailing wife with a carving knife to “quieten her down” after she woke him up at night and started screaming.

Edward Turpin attempted to murder Joan Turpin, also 90, while she slept at their home in Ringshall Road, Orpington, south-east London, on September 22 last year, prosecutors claim.

Jurors at the Old Bailey heard earlier this week that Mrs Turpin, who is blind and needs a catheter, had become increasingly dependent on her husband’s help.

Turpin allegedly felt he could “no longer cope” and, at around 1.30am, attacked his wife in their bed before turning the knife on himself.

Giving evidence on Thursday, the pensioner, who denies attempted murder and an alternative charge of wounding with intent, said nothing unusual had happened on the evening before the incident.

Edward Turpin outside the Old Bailey (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)
Edward Turpin outside the Old Bailey (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

But in the early hours of the morning, his wife elbowed him in the back and started saying she could not sleep in an uncharacteristically “aggressive” tone, he claimed.

Turpin, who jurors have heard was happily married for “60 good years”, said she then began screaming uncontrollably.

He initially told jurors he could not remember what had happened during the incident.

But when cross-examined by prosecutor Alistair Richardson, he accepted he had gone downstairs to get a knife and “made my mind up” about what he was about to do.

Despite the walk to the kitchen giving him time to reflect, he believed the best way to “calm (his) wife down” was stab her.

He insisted his intention had not been to kill her or himself, despite the attack leaving Mrs Turpin with a collapsed lung and at least four stab wounds.

Mr Richardson asked: “You must remember whether or not you have gone downstairs?”

“I can’t remember,” Turpin said.

“Well, the knives are downstairs,” the barrister said.

“Yeah, I must have,” the defendant replied.

“You must have selected a knife?” Mr Richardson asked.

So you're saying I should have strangled her?

Edward Turpin to prosecutor Alistair Richardson

“Sir, I’m a butcher,” Turpin replied, adding it was a “carver” that is typically used for cutting “roast beef and stuff like that”.

He added that it had been the smallest knife he had in the house.

“You, I think, are telling us that even with that time for reflection (going downstairs) you thought stabbing her was the right way to stop her screaming?” Mr Richardson said.

“Yes, sir,” the defendant answered.

He added later: “All I was trying to do was calm my wife down.”

When it was suggested to him that stabbing her would not be a good way to quieten her down, he replied: “So you’re saying I should have strangled her?”

Earlier, Turpin claimed the “last thing” he would want to do his harm his wife, and denied any suggestions that he had also been attempting suicide.

“We had 60 good years and all I want to do is, you know, carry on life,” he said.

Asked about his wife’s health before the incident, Turpin said the couple had “so-called” home care but that he did the majority of the work, cooking, cleaning and emptying her catheter.

“How did you feel about that?” Simon Gledhill, defending, asked.

Turpin replied: “It was my wife, I loved her, you know? I didn’t want to see her suffer.”

He woke me up with the knife in my chest, telling me he couldn’t take any more

Joan Turpin

Prosecutors allege the pensioner “ran out of patience” looking after his wife as her health deteriorated, and attempted to kill her.

But Mrs Turpin said after the incident that her husband was a “lovely man” who had never “laid one finger” on her before the attack.

She rejected the suggestion that he had been trying to carry out a suicide pact but contradicted his version of events, saying she had woken up with the knife in her chest, the court heard.

In a filmed interview from her hospital bed, jurors heard she said: “He woke me up with the knife in my chest, telling me he couldn’t take any more.

“It made him ill and then the knife went in. I was screaming for help.”

The couple are still married and Turpin calls his wife, who now lives in a care home, twice a day, the court heard.

Jurors were sent home on Thursday afternoon after being told that Turpin was “feeling unwell” and had been seen by a first aider in the building.

Judge Alexia Durran said the decision had been made to continue with the case on Friday when the defendant “hopefully feels better”.

The trial, which is expected to last two days, continues.