Died 5th February 2012

Josephine Gilliard (74) was beaten and stabbed to death at her home in Links Road, Blackpool, Lancashire on 5th February 2012. She had four children and three grandchildren.

Frederick Gilliard (76), her husband of 54 years, was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 4 years on 1st February 2013.

Gilliard attacked Ms Gilliard in their bedroom, hitting her with with a garden statue and then stabbing her repeatedly. She suffered “catastrophic” head injuries and 10 stab wounds of “considerable force” to her neck, chest and stomach from an eight-inch (20cm) carving knife. A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds and a blow to the head.

Gilliard was originally charged with murder, but at an earlier hearing pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to his depression.

Preston Crown Court heard that he had told police he “just lost it” after having a ‘row’ with his wife. Defence lawyers claimed he was suffering from a “depressive episode” at the time of the attack.

After he had killed Ms Gilliard he dialled 999 and when police arrived said: “This is going to kill my kids. We have been married 54 years. I loved that woman.”

Stuart Denney, prosecuting, told the court Gilliard had suffered from depression a number of years earlier, but had stopped taking tablets prescribed by doctors. He said Gilliard had got the statue from the garden and the knife from the kitchen before going upstairs to attack his wife in the bedroom as she lay on the bed. He said: “It was clearly a prolonged and violent attack.” Mr Denney said the psychiatrists who assessed the defendant “were of one voice” that he had suffered a depressive episode.

Andrew O’Byrne, for the Defence, said: “Unfortunately, it has become obvious this defendant has been suffering with a moderate depressive illness and that, combined with other factors, led him to the events of February 5 last year.”

The jury was told that Gilliard had served in the RAF for 27 years and served during the conflict in Aden. Coording to the BBC report, it also heard Ms Gilliard and her killer described as a “decent, hard-working couple who raised four children and had three grandchildren”.

Detective Superintent Ian Critchley, who led the investigation, said: “This was a tragic crime which has left a whole family devastated by their loss. Our thoughts are with the Gilliard family at this difficult time.”

Passing sentence Judge Anthony Russell QC, Recorder of Preston, told Gilliard: “This is a terrible tragedy which has affected all of your family and you, and must have inflicted considerable emotional damage which can never be repaired.”

The Daily Mail described Gilliard as a “frail ex-RAF sergeant”… . “suffering from depression” adding “Frail Gilliard, who walks with a stoop and wears glasses and hearing aids in both ears, could not hear proceedings and looked over to his family in the public gallery who held up four fingers to indicate the sentence.”

Note: This report was drawn from the BBC and the Daily Mail.

For Our Daughters Notes:

We were concerned that reports in the Daily Mail and the BBC failed to make any reference to Josephine Gillard’s right to life, her advanced age or state of health. Neither provided any information about her previous profession, activities, interests or anything to indicate respect for her individual worth as a human being. In contrast the focus was entirely upon her killer, his previous career, his frailty and his apparent depressive episode – even his poor hearing and eyesight.

The Daily Mail described Gilliard as a “frail ex-RAF sergeant”… . “suffering from depression”. It emphasised that he wore glasses, walked with a stoop and had a hearing problem.

For Our Daughters notes that many people have ‘moderate’ and even severe depression, but very few batter and stab other people to death. We note that lethal violence is very rare even in the case of acute psychotic episode. We also wonder how a man so apparently “frail” managed to mount what was described in court as a “prolonged and violent attack”. Stooped or not Gilliard managed to carry a garden statue to his bedroom, beat his wife with it so hard that she experienced “catastrophic” head injuries and then stab her 10 times, inflicting wounds with what was described as “considerable force” to her neck, chest and stomach.

We deplore the comment of Judge Anthony Russell QC, Recorder of Preston, who told Gilliard that this was “ a terrible tragedy which has affected all of your family and you” (my emphasis). The truth is that this was not a tragedy which “affected” the killer. It was a tragedy of Gilliard’s own making for it was he and he alone who brutally killed Ms Gilliard.

It concerns us that the apparently increasing number of elderly men who kill their wives tend to be viewed with great sympathy by the courts, with the length of their marriages treated as a mitigating factor. Yet elderly women are among the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence and are far more likely to be killed than elderly men. Such women deserve protection. As to the length of the marriage, Ms Gilliard had no less a right to life at the end of her marriage as she did at its start.

Four years is a derisory sentence for such a homicide. Josephine Gilliard deserved better.

Jean Calder, 2nd February 2013

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