Penelope Jackson: Retired accountant guilty of murdering her husband after row over birthday meal

·9-min read
Penelope Jackson: Retired accountant guilty of murdering her husband after row over birthday meal

A retired accountant who stabbed her husband of 24 years three times and told a 999 operator “I thought I’d get his heart but he hasn’t got one” has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years after being found guilty of his murder.

Penelope Jackson knifed her husband David, 78, at their home in Parsonage Road, in Berrow, Somerset, on February 13 this year.

In an 18-minute phone call to emergency services, Jackson told the call handler her husband, a retired lieutenant colonel, was “bleeding to death with any luck” on their kitchen floor.

She repeatedly refused to help the victim when the operator asked her to take steps such as apply pressure to the wound or throw him a towel to try and stem the bleeding.

Jackson jotted down a confession on a notepad by the telephone, and when she was arrested on suspicion of murder, replied: “It’s murder now, not attempted murder? Oh good.”

But she would later deny murder, pleading guilty to manslaughter and saying she had lost control following years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband.

Jackson claimed her husband coercively controlled her, blocking her from seeing friends, and even deciding what she watched on television.

David Jackson (Jackson family/PA) (PA Media)
David Jackson (Jackson family/PA) (PA Media)

On Friday, Jackson was found guilty at Bristol Crown Court of murder after nearly 11 hours of deliberations.

There was a gasp from the public gallery, which was packed with David Jackson’s extended family, when the verdict was read out.

Jackson did not react to the jury’s verdict.

During the two-and-a-half week trial, the jury heard the Jacksons had rowed about the defendant serving bubble and squeak with a gourmet meal bought for them by their daughter during lockdown to celebrate Jackson’s birthday.

The victim and defendant had eaten the meal with their daughter and son-in-law Isabelle and Tom Potterton over Zoom.

Mr and Mrs Potterton both said the row seemed to have blown over but added they had ended the call when the Jacksons began arguing over who had failed to charge their computer properly.

In her evidence, Jackson said the row over bubble and squeak had tipped her over the edge.

“He had the contempt for me and he had been so rude and obnoxious in front of our daughter,” she said.

“It wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back but in was in the bundle.”

 (PA)
(PA)

“He had the contempt for me and he had been so rude and obnoxious in front of our daughter,” she said.

“It wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back but in was in the bundle.”

Describing her marriage, Jackson said: “I didn’t know if I was waking up to nice David or nasty David.”

The defendant said her husband was often violent following arguments.

“It would escalate, and he would shake me most of the time, he strangled me sometimes and I would go unconscious sometimes.”

She added: “Other times I would be semi-conscious, and I would be on the bed or the floor and if he was really angry he would kick me.”

Jackson claimed that on the night of the killing she had taken a kitchen knife to her bedroom intending to use it to take her own life, but instead walked into her husband’s bedroom to speak to him.

“I wanted him to say: ‘I am sorry, Pen.’ He didn’t, he just said: ‘For God’s sake you are pathetic, get on with it and go back to bed’,” she said.

“It was just like, ‘Pass the sugar’. I was in utter despair. I looked at him and said: ‘I have done nothing wrong, admit you are sorry.’ He said: ‘For God’s sake shut up’. He literally couldn’t be bothered – it was utter contempt.”

Describing the moment she stabbed the victim, Jackson said: “I lost all control.”

Penelope Jackson in the dock at Bristol Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)
Penelope Jackson in the dock at Bristol Crown Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

She continued: “If I had been the normal Penny, I wouldn’t have done it.

“I am sorry, I lost the plot and lost control.”

Jailing Penelope Jackson for 18 years for the murder, Judge Martin Picton remarked she had shown “not a shred of remorse” for the killing.

He said: “Despite professing to still love him, you sought to portray David Jackson as a monster.

“Whilst there was no doubt, as in any marriage, points of friction that the lockdown would have exacerbated, I have no doubt that he was nothing like the person you have claimed.”

Judge Picton continued: "You took the life of another human being. That is a terrible thing to do and it represents a burden you and all the other family members will have to bear for the rest of their lives.

"Their memories of (David Jackson) will always be tarnished by the manner of his death and by the way you sought to portray him."

He added he had not seen "a shred of remorse" from the defendant during the four days she gave evidence.

Over the course of her trial at Bristol Crown Court, various witnesses painted a picture of Jackson as a confident woman who had worked her way up to a senior administrative position in the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The jury heard that she frequently travelled independently of her husband during their marriage, and worked for a stint in Sierra Leone.

Ms Potterton said her parents often “bickered” but that arguments would soon pass.

She recalled three incidents of serious aggression by her father against her mother, including him pulling a knife on her, around 1997 and 1998 – but agreed these had been in the aftermath of the suicide of his son from his first marriage.

She agreed that, for the past 20 years, the couple had seemed to have a close and loving relationship.

Mrs Potterton’s husband said he saw his wife’s parents bicker and argue but it was “relatively short-lived and forgotten about” and nothing that caused him concern.

Asked if he ever saw Mr Jackson hurt the defendant, Mr Potterton replied: “No. He once or twice raised his hand in frustration but on no account did I envisage he would do anything, and he never did.”

Julie Smith, who became friends with Jackson when they both worked in accounts and administration at the MoD, said she would often have one-to-one calls with her.

She told the court: “David was quiet, unassuming, sociable, a good man. Penelope was sociable and gregarious.

“They both had quite strong views so they were similar in that respect.”

Ms Smith continued: “They seemed to rub along quite well, just little disagreements like any married couple.”

Joan Clargo struck up a friendship with Jackson at their local gym in 2018 and told the court they would regularly socialise together with their husbands.

Mrs Clargo said Jackson was similar to her own husband in that they were both quite loud, while she was more like Mr Jackson “in that we were the quieter of the two”.

She revealed that the victim had a codeword – “car park” – which was a signal for the defendant to calm down when she was getting carried away.

But Jackson’s stepdaughter, Jane Calverley, the victim’s daughter from his first marriage, said the defendant seemed to enjoy baiting people.

Ms Calverley said: “I always felt everything had to revolve around Jackson – she was a very larger-than-life character, she would enjoy making people uncomfortable.”

She described a time when her father and stepmother had stayed with her family in Australia for five weeks, and Jackson would leave the door to their bedroom open when she was naked.

“She didn’t care that my son, who was entering puberty, would observe her sitting there naked, drying her hair,” Ms Calverley said.

“For me, the defendant liked baiting people for fun, sport – she liked to see my father uncomfortable, and she enjoyed that.”

Elsewhere, Sheila Taylor, the victim’s second wife, told the court that Jackson had once threatened to mutilate Mr Jackson.

Ms Taylor said that, after her divorce from the victim had been finalised, he had told her Jackson had threatened to “do a Bobbit on him” if he ever tried to leave her.

The alleged threat was a reference to a high-profile case in the US at around the same time, where a wife had cut off her husband’s penis.

Ms Taylor said she believed her former husband “was afraid of Penelope”.

“He was frightened she would destroy his Army career and destroy his reputation, and there’s no doubt in my mind she was capable of doing that,” Ms Taylor added.

In his instructions to the jury, Judge Picton said: “There is no such thing as a typical victim of domestic abuse and no such thing as a typical abuser; domestic abuse can occur irrespective of age, gender and social circumstances.”

Jackson's son-in-law Mr Potterton said he could never forgive her for the pain she has caused his wife.

Mr Potterton said: "Isabelle has had to process the circumstances around (her father's death), particularly the involvement of her mother."

He continued: "As I tried to explain to you when I visited you in prison, you have no idea how much pain and suffering you have caused (Isabelle), you don't see the hurt and anguish she goes through every day."

Mr Potterton finished by saying: "This did not have to happen. It was a selfish act with no regard to how it may affect those who were close to yourself and David, you could have walked away but you chose not."

He added: "I can honestly say I will never be able to forgive you for the pain and suffering you have caused (Isabelle)."

Ms Potterton said "every aspect of my life has been turned upside down" since her mother murdered her father.

Mrs Potterton said she had a "great life" with her parents, adding "we were a three".

"(My parents) might occasionally make mistakes and I might have done too, that's called being human, regardless, I always felt supported, loved and cared for by my parents.

"There was nothing I couldn't do because I had their backing."

She continued: "I have lost my dad but I have also lost my mum too. My life has changed forever.

"With our family dynamic being as complex as they are, I am both of (my parents') next of kin. I have had to pick up the pieces."

Ms Potterton, who is pregnant with her first child, said: "I have lost the man I looked up to and loved, I have lost the man who was there for me no matter what."

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