It was a quiet night in Somerset on 13th February 2021. Shortly after 9pm, a 999 call came in from a man named David Jackson. He told the operator that his wife of 24 years, Penny Jackson, had just attacked him with a knife and he needed police immediately.
Seconds later, David could be heard screaming in pain as he was stabbed once again by his wife while still on the phone. Penny then took over the phone and told the operator that she had stabbed David a total of three times. ‘I’ve killed my husband, or tried to, because I’ve had enough,’ she said. She then added: ‘I thought I’d get his heart, but he hasn’t got one.’
Penny went on to explain that an argument had ensued that evening over the fact that she had served bubble and squeak for dinner. She said that the meal was for her birthday, and it was a gourmet meal bought for them by their daughter, but Penny had decided to serve it with bubble and squeak, much to the dismay of David. She told police that when David erupted into insults over the meal, he ‘ruined’ the special occasion.
Police officers descended on the couple’s home where they found David bleeding to death in the kitchen. Paramedics arrived on the scene, but despite their valiant attempts, David could not be saved and was pronounced dead at the scene. Penny was immediately placed under arrest. As the handcuffs were placed on her wrists, she said: ‘I stabbed him, he's an aggressive bully and nasty and I've had enough... When he says I wouldn't do it, I did it twice more.’
Penny readily admitted to manslaughter but denied that she had murdered David. She claimed that she had endured years of coercive, controlling and physically abusive behaviour at the hands of her husband. According to Penny, David had controlled every aspect of her life. She said that he prevented her from interacting with any of her friends, and even decided what she could watch on television. She further said that he forced her into sex but she was too afraid and ashamed to leave him.
She was subsequently ordered to stand trial for the murder. There were no denials that Penny had wielded the weapon to take David’s life, but the jury needed to decide whether his behaviour towards his wife over their marriage had resulted in her ‘losing control’ that night.
During the trial, testimony focused on the events leading up to David’s murder. Earlier in the evening, their daughter, Isabelle, had purchased them a meal of lobster, steak and champagne for Penny's birthday. Due to covid regulations, they decided they would all sit down on Zoom to eat the meal. Penny had served the meal alongside bubble and squeak, but this led to an argument that broke out before the Zoom call had ended.
The argument only continued into the night. Shortly after the call, Isabelle received a text message from her mother which read: ‘If it all goes tits, you have this message. I love you to the ends of the earth.’ Isabelle subsequently called her mother to ask whether she was okay; she confirmed that she was. However, later that night, Penny grabbed a kitchen knife and took it into the bedroom. She claimed she grabbed it initially in self-defence, and even that she considered taking her own life.
Penny told the jury: ‘I wanted him to say: “I am sorry, Pen.” He didn’t, he just said: “For God’s sake you are pathetic.”’ She said that at this moment, she ‘lost it’ and stabbed David once. The injury was not fatal, and David managed to call 999. According to Penny, he began goading her while calling for help, telling her that she hadn’t ‘been able to do the stabbing right.’ Penny said she responded by stabbing him two more times, killing him.
Isabelle testified during the trial, offering an insight into the couple’s tumultuous marriage. She detailed how David was her mother’s fourth husband. She had married her first husband at the age of 18 but then left the marriage after claiming he had become abusive. Penny found love again, but her second husband came out as gay and the marriage dissolved. She was married for a third time, but her third husband took his own life when he discovered that she was having an affair with David, who would become her fourth husband. While Isabelle’s biological father was Penny's third husband, David had raised her from birth and later adopted her.
Testimony then turned to the abuse allegations. Isabelle detailed three incidents of extreme aggression from David against her mother. These took place somewhere between 1997 and 1998. She said that on one occasion, David had pushed Penny up against a wall. She recalled: ‘After that my mum packed two suitcases and we went and stayed in a hotel that night, she said we were leaving.’ Just the following day, however, Penny and Isabelle returned home.
On another occasion, Isabelle described how David pulled out a knife and threatened her mother. However, Isabelle conceded that in their retirement years, they appeared to be happy and in love and that they enjoyed many shared interests, including travelling and cruises.
Penny's defence team presented some evidence that they said backed up her claims of abuse. In December 2020, Penny called the police after an argument with David over a remote control. She had locked him in the conservatory where he was armed with a poker. An examination of her internet history revealed that later in the evening, she had researched domestic violence refuges. The defence team also presented a number of text messages from the preceding years. In 2018, Penny had texted him: ‘You frighten me. I cannot grow old like this.’ Another one from later that year read: ‘I love you but I can no longer cope.’
After deliberating for more than ten hours, a jury consisting of eight women and four men found Penny Jackson guilty of the murder of David Jackson. The sentencing phase was to follow and poignant victim impact statements were presented by members of the family, only highlighting their grief over the confronting murder case.
Isabelle shared her grief over the loss of not only her father but her mother as well. She stated: ‘I had not only lost my dad but I had lost my mum too. My life was changed forever. I have lost the man that I looked up to and loved. I have lost the man that was always there for me no matter what.’
David’s estranged daughter, Jane Calverley, took to the podium to accuse Penny of being the abusive one in the marriage, not David. She said to the courtroom that her father would have been much too proud to ask for help and admit that he was being abused by his wife.
Penny Jackson was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison. In handing down the sentence, Judge Martin Picton said that Jackson had shown ‘not a shred of remorse’ for the murder of David.
He stated: ‘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. 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.’