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5 British women who murdered their partners 

Penny Jackson and David Jackson
Image: Bubble & Squeak Murder: The Killing of David Jackson

From a lethal row over bubble and squeak to a hammer attack that ended years of psychological torment, these are the stories of five British women who killed their husbands and boyfriends.

1. Penelope Jackson

‘I thought I’d get his heart, but he hasn’t got one.’ That was how Penelope Jackson reported her stabbing of her husband David to a 999 operator in February 2021. When asked where her victim was located, the stunningly blasé 66-year-old woman replied: ‘He’s in the kitchen bleeding to death with any luck.’

Earlier that very evening, the Somerset couple had been having a seemingly pleasant meal of lobster, steak and champagne during a long Zoom call with their daughter. But things spiralled out of control after they started arguing over a bubble and squeak side dish, and whether it was an appropriate accompaniment for the gourmet dinner.

Penelope Jackson later said that David, who was her fourth husband, had dominated and abused her for years, and deserved punishment. However, jurors weren’t persuaded that this was a case of a woman snapping after years of trauma. She was found guilty of murder, with the judge handing her an eighteen-year minimum term for what he described as a callous and premeditated crime.

2. Rebecca Searing

In February 2022, one year on from Penelope Jackson killing her husband, a similarly dramatic story of domestic murder hit the headlines. This time, the woman wielding the knife was 52-year-old Rebecca Searing, an Essex nurse who stabbed her husband Paul to death as he lay in bed in the early hours.

Doing the deed shortly after Paul had come home from the pub, Rebecca herself called emergency services, telling police ‘I can’t believe I’ve just done this.’ During her trial, the defence emphasised that Rebecca still loved the man she’d killed, but that the relationship involved regular domestic violence.

However, the judge took a dim view of what had unfolded, saying that the abuse allegations could not justify cold-blooded murder and that Paul had ‘presented no threat’ on the night she attacked him. Rebecca Searing was handed a minimum term of seventeen years behind bars.

3. Sally Challen

Unlike the women discussed above, Sally Challen was regarded in a more sympathetic light by the legal system – but only after serving nine years of a life sentence for murder.

It was back in August 2010 that Sally, then 56, bludgeoned her husband Richard to death with a hammer after preparing him bacon and eggs in their Surrey home. The abrupt brutality of the crime led to Sally being painted in court as an obsessive woman ‘eaten up with jealousy’ by Richard’s friendships with other women.

However, years after her murder conviction, she was permitted to appeal on grounds that she’d been the victim of coercive control. He had subjected her to a barrage of ill-treatment, calling her names, undercutting her self-esteem, and giving her bizarre rules.

Fully backed up by her family, Sally had her conviction quashed in 2019 and walked free that same year. The case remains a landmark of its kind, shedding a searing light on how coercive control and psychological abuse can be every bit as traumatising as domestic violence.

4. Farieissia Martin

One November evening in 2014, 22-year-old Liverpool woman Farieissia Martin came home to her boyfriend Kyle Farrell after a night out. An argument ensued, culminating with Farieissia stabbing him fatally in the chest. Despite the history of abuse in the relationship (Kyle’s violence had been witnessed by friends and family, and he’d once kicked her in the stomach when she was pregnant), Farieissia was found guilty of murder and handed a life sentence.

With help from the campaigning organisation Justice for Women, she was able to obtain proper psychiatric assessments which set out the truth of what she’d endured. It was determined that, at the time of the killing, she had been suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociation from all the abuse.

Her murder conviction was later overturned, and in 2021 she was given a new, ten-year sentence for manslaughter. However, the judge was at pains to point out that the ‘person at the centre of this tragedy is Kyle Farrell’, while her appeal solicitor said she was ‘appalled and gobsmacked’ that Farieissia would have to do more time.

5. Emma-Jayne Magson

The case of Emma-Jayne Magson remains one of the most controversial of this type. In March 2016, the 23-year-old Leicester woman stabbed her boyfriend James Knight to death after they rowed during a night out. Emma-Jayne claimed it happened while he was trying to throttle her, but her questionable behaviour that night – including saying ‘don’t worry about it’ to the 999 operator when they said the ambulance would be delayed – helped pave the way for a murder conviction.

A retrial was later ordered after new evidence suggested she could have used the diminished responsibility defence. A second trial took place, but Emma-Jayne was again found guilty of murder, with the judge saying that he was sure that most acts of violence in the relationship had been perpetrated by Emma-Jayne, not James.

The decision was disputed by women’s campaigners, with the Centre for Women’s Justice highlighting evidence of James’ violent conduct and accusing the prosecutors of showing ‘appalling class prejudice and misogyny’ when pursuing the murder conviction. Emma-Jayne’s bid to appeal the second conviction has since been denied.