Jeweller cleared of murdering abusive partner with Charles Bronson fixation

Mark Piggott
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A 27-year-old jewellery store manager broke down in the dock as she was cleared of murdering her boyfriend during a champagne-fuelled row by stabbing him in the neck.

Mother-of-two Elizabeth Hart-Browne killed 25-year-old Stephen Rayner at her home in Acton, west London as her two children slept nearby.

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The Old Bailey heard Rayner had a history of violent and abusive behaviour towards his partner during their turbulent six-year relationship, including an incident where he smashed her head against a mirror, knocking her unconscious.

Rayner had previously pleaded guilty to battery after an incident outside a nightclub in 2012 during which he threatened to jump in the River Thames.

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Ms Hart-Browne told court that call-centre worker Rayner idolised Charles Bronson, dubbed Britain's most violent prisoner. "He had a fascination with Charles Bronson," she said.

"He liked his aggression. There were lots of stories about [Bronson] attacking prisoners and guards. He would take on that persona sometimes when he was angry. His whole accent changed, his whole being would change and I couldn't get through to him."

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On 17 September 2016, Hart-Browne returned from a party to be confronted by Rayner. "Stephen started kicking and punching at me, I was trying to move so he couldn't catch me", she said.

"He had hold of my hair at one stage, I was telling him to stop." She grabbed a kitchen knife from the table and lashed out. When he staggered outside and collapsed in a pool of blood she went to try and save him by putting a hand over his wound.

After a six-week trial, a jury took 15 hours to find Hart-Browne innocent. She has been in custody since the night of the incident and now hopes to reunite with her children.

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