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‘Horse whisperer’ likened to The Twits character found guilty of murdering husband

A self-proclaimed horse expert with an “ungovernable temper” has been jailed for 17 years after being found guilty of stabbing her husband to death during a row over land at their home in North Devon.

Christine Rawle, 69, killed Ian Rawle, 72, by stabbing him in the back with a knife at their property in the village of Braunton on 21 August, 2022.

Exeter Crown Court heard Mr Rawle then staggered after his wife of 29 years, imploring her to remove the knife from his back, before collapsing and dying from the wound.

Jurors were told how the couple had a dysfunctional marriage, with prosecutors likening them to the Roald Dahl characters The Twits, who are a spiteful married couple who live together in a brick house without windows and delight in making each other’s lives miserable.

Ian Rawle was stabbed by his wife while helping her to muck out her horses (CPS/PA Wire)
Ian Rawle was stabbed by his wife while helping her to muck out her horses (CPS/PA Wire)

The couple, retired circus trainers who keep a family of pet monkeys, continuously play practical jokes on one another out of their hatred for one another.

The judge said: “Ian was not perfect. The evidence showed that he was obstinate, sometimes grumpy, he could shout, he was stuck in his ways and he was old-fashioned in terms of how he wanted a relationship with his wife.

“But he was in no way the serial domestic abuser you sought to portray him as.” He added: “The main reason you killed your husband was that you have an ungovernable temper.”

Prosecuting, Mr Sean Brunton KC said the killing was “as clear a case of murder as you are likely to find”, with Rawle attacking her husband in a “fit of temper” during the argument.

Rawle did not give evidence during her trial but her legal team insisted she had been a victim of coercive and controlling behaviour from her husband, and stabbed him in self-defence.

The jury rejected her account and convicted her of murder.

Judge James Adkin told the panel: “Thank you very much for your close attention to this case. It wasn’t an easy case, there was quite a lot of complicated evidence for you to consider.”

Christine Rawle being interviewed by police (CPS/PA Wire)
Christine Rawle being interviewed by police (CPS/PA Wire)

During the trial, the court heard how Mr Rawle had come to help his wife with mucking out her horses as she was suffering with a bad shoulder.

It was alleged that Rawle fatally attacked her husband with a knife as he pushed a wheelbarrow of manure towards the muck heap.

In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Brunton described Rawle as “almost compulsively manipulative”.

He told the jury: “The issue of self-defence doesn’t arise. It is a non-issue.

“He is walking away from her, pushing the wheelbarrow after 30 years of marriage. What was she threatened by? By nothing.”

Mr Brunton said Rawle had “unfettered access to money” from her husband, with the couple living with “no debts, a lovely house, and plenty of money”.

The court heard how Rawle had been on the phone to her adult daughter at the time of the murder.

Her daughter rang police after hearing Rawle say “I’ve stabbed him, I’ve stabbed him”. A call operator for the ambulance service then rang Rawle to help her administer first aid.

But instead, Rawle said to the operator: “He was on and on at me, I am watching him die in front of me”.

Ian Rawle (CPS/PA Wire)
Ian Rawle (CPS/PA Wire)

When police arrived at the scene, and during police interview, Rawle claimed she had been subjected to years of psychological and physical violence from her husband.

The defendant, who has been diagnosed with depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, insisted she believed he was going to kill her when she attacked him.

Witnesses gave differing accounts of Rawle and her husband, with one neighbour describing Mr Rawle as “vindictive” and unpleasant to his wife.

Rawle’s son Thomas told the jury how Mr Rawle had subjected his mother to years of abuse, and tried to control her by hiding her car keys – describing her as a “fat pig”.

A friend of Rawle said she waited on her husband “hand and foot” but he would accuse her of being lazy and useless, with Rawle confiding that she wanted a divorce.

However, one work colleague of Mr Rawle told the court she was concerned he was the victim of domestic abuse and tried to find him a support service.

She described seeing Mr Rawle with a black eye, which he said was caused by his wife. On one occasion, Rawle rang the workplace and told the witness: “Tell Ian to look in the mirror because he isn’t Kevin Costner”.