Died 22nd July 2013

Jean Redfern (67) and her daughter Sarah Redfern (33) were killed on 22nd July 2013 at their home at Wath-upon-Dearne, South Yorkshire.

Peter Redfern (70), husband and father respectively to the two victims, in January 2014 pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility regarding Jean Redfern and guilty to the murder of Sarah Redfern.

Redfern strangled Jean Redfern before bludgeoning Sarah Redfern to death with a hammer. A post mortem revealed that Jean Redfern suffered asphyxiation and Sarah Redfern died from severe head injuries.

At Sheffield Crown Court, the judge Mr Justice Males jailed Redfern for a minimum of 17 years and said he would almost certainly “die in prison”.

The bodies of the mother and daughter were found with plastic bags over their heads that had been secured with electrical flex. Emergency services attended the family home just after 7pm on 22nd July – after Redfern called police saying “I’ve just killed my wife and daughter.”

Following the deaths, a family member said: “The family of Jean and Sarah are devastated by the news of their deaths. Jean was a much loved sister and aunt. Sarah was a wonderful, kind and loving niece and cousin. We are at a loss to know why they died, but ask as a family that we are allowed to grieve and try to come to terms with what has happened.”

A spokesperson for Bonmarche, the Rotherham city centre shop where Sarah Redfern worked, said: “We are deeply shocked to hear the devastating news about Sarah Redfern.
Sarah was a valued member of the Rotherham Bonmarche store where she had worked for over nine years. Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Sarah was said to be “inseparable” from her mother.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Singleton of South Yorkshire Police said: “Peter Redfern murdered his wife and daughter in an attack that was shocking and impossible to understand. Only he knows why he committed such a violent act. We will continue to support the family and are relieved on their behalf that they will not have to suffer the trauma of a trial.” He added “Jean and Sarah were a mother and daughter who were as close as a mother and daughter could be. Our thoughts are with Jean and Sarah’s family as they begin this next step of the grieving process.”

Sheffield Crown Court heard Redfern, a retired gas fitter, had been diagnosed with a form of incurable bone cancer in May 2013 and had signed up to a national trial for treatment with particular drug combinations.

Mr Justice Males, accepted that the drugs had caused an “adverse psychiatric reaction” which led to the killings. He said: “Studies have shown….. that in a very small percentage of cases the drugs which you took can lead to an adverse psychiatric reaction, which, when it occurs, is generally mild or moderate but in a very small number of cases can be serious. Tragically, that was to prove to be so in your case.” He said Redfern had, on the balance of probabilities, killed Jean Redfern “on impulse when your mental functioning was abnormally affected”. He accepted that the killer then made the “deliberate and dreadful decision” to kill his daughter because he did not want her to see what had happened to his wife. The judge said “When Sarah arrived home you surprised her, with a carrier bag, electric flex and hammer which you had got ready for use,”. He added “After managing to put the carrier bag over her head you killed her by hitting her repeatedly on the head with severe force.” He commented: “We cannot imagine how she must have felt in what must thankfully have been those brief moments before she died, with a bag over her head and hammer blows raining down on her.”

In setting the minimum term for the murder of Sarah he said the exercise was “in one sense academic” as, due to the killer’s age and illness, “it is as certain as anything can be that you will die in prison”.

Note: This report was drawn from reports in the Daily Mail, the BBC and wearebarnsley.com.

FOD Comment:

We note that, in this dreadful case of the domestic homicides of Jean Redfern and Sarah Redfern, the police spokesperson continued after the trial to refer to both killings as “murder”, despite one guilty plea of manslaughter and one of murder.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Singleton of South Yorkshire Police commented: “Peter Redfern murdered his wife and daughter in an attack that was shocking and impossible to understand.” He added “Only he knows why he committed such a violent act.”

The judge, on the other hand, seems to have accepted far more readily than the police the idea that “on the evidence (our emphasis) these tragic events would never have taken place if not for the side effects” of the cancer drugs Redfern had taken. FOD finds this hard to accept because Redfern’s guilty pleas ensured evidence, in fact, was not heard.

The judge seems to have accepted the extraordinary argument that Redfern decided to kill his daughter because he did not want her to see what had happened to his wife. There was no explanation as to why this killing – if it was indeed intended to prevent suffering – was planned and carried out with such deliberate cruelty – nor why he hit her so many times with the hammer. Redfern prepared for Sarah Redfern’s return to the house “with a carrier bag, electric flex and hammer”. If he had genuinely been preparing for a quick killing, he surely would not have placed a plastic bag over Sarah Redfern’s head before bludgeoning her to death, nor have secured the plastic bag with electrical flex (as he also did when he killed her mother). Despite the judge optimistically referring to “what must thankfully have been those brief moments before she died”, Sarah Redfern’s death cannot have been quick. She must in fact have died struggling, in great pain and in a state of terror.

The courts do few favours to bereaved families – and no honour to the dead – by minimising victims’ suffering. In reality, all that such statements do is to provide comfort to perpetrators. Surely, this cannot be in the public interest.

Jean Calder
19th January 2014.

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