Grandmother who stabbed husband to death in their Sheffield home is spared jail
A grandmother who stabbed her husband to death in their Sheffield home has been spared jail, after being diagnosed with a rare form of dementia.
Marjorie Grayson, 84, picked up a kitchen knife and attacked her husband of nearly 60 years, Alan, at their home on Orgreave Lane, in Handsworth, following a ‘trivial disagreement’ about what to do after a trip to Morrisons that day, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
She told police she had ‘just wanted to scare’ the 85-year-old, to whom her family said she had been ‘happily’ married, on the morning of September 13 last year. She explained she had ‘snapped’ and ‘felt like a different person’ as she plunged the knife three times into his chest and back.
It was only after the ‘inexplicable’ attack that was she diagnosed with a rare condition known as behavioural variant-frontotemporal dementia, which the court heard had affected her ability to inhibit her impulses that day.
Grayson was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, which the Crown accepted, due to her dementia.
She was this afternoon given a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act, and will be treated at a specialist facility in Northampton until she is considered well enough to be discharged and cared for in the community.
Sentencing her, Mr Justice Matthew Nicklin said the nine months she had already spent in custody were ‘sufficient punishment’ for the crime.
Grayson, wearing a pale green cardigan, waved and blew kisses to her family as she entered the court, and held a tissue to her face as she was sentenced.
Her family, who the court heard had supported her throughout, waved back down from the gallery as she left the dock, having hugged and held hands throughout the hearing.
Dafydd Enoch QC, prosecuting, described how Grayson told police she and Alan had been planning to go shopping at Morrisons that morning, but he wanted to go out afterwards while she wished to return home.
“She went to get a drink of water from the kitchen and picked up a knife from a pot, intending to scare him,” he said.
“Alan was bent over, putting his shoes on. She wasn’t really angry but was brooding on it. She didn’t want to go out other than to Morrisons. She said she hit him twice with a stabbing motion.”
Grayson dialled 999 and told the operator ‘I’ve just stabbed my husband... I think I’ve killed him’, Mr Enoch told the court.
When police arrived, they found her ‘very distressed and shaking’, and said she seemed unable to communicate or even confirm her name.
She later told police ‘I must have snapped’, he continued, adding that she had ‘acted on impulse’ and ‘it was just a mood’, and saying ‘I felt like a different person while it was all happening’.
Although she had not been diagnosed at the time, and experts said the condition was at an early stage, Mr Enoch told how looking back it became clear to the family she had shown some ‘behavioural changes’ in the period leading up to the tragedy.
Mr Justice Nicklin told Grayson her dementia had ‘resulted in you being unable to inhibit a sudden angry impulse triggered by a trivial disagreement’.
“This is a tragic case. You have killed your husband. But, at the time, you had a relatively rare form of dementia which was undiagnosed and affected your behaviour.
“I know that you are deeply upset by what has happened and that you miss your husband. Members of your family have lost a father and grandfather but despite this your family have been entirely supportive of you throughout this case.”
The judge read an extract from a victim personal statement by the couple’s son Paul, in which he said: “Throughout this traumatic and upsetting experience we have always had Marjorie’s welfare as our foremost priority.
“As a family, we continue to go through the grieving process as we mourn the loss of Alan.
“Marjorie is also going through this profound bereavement experience and we don’t want her to have to go through this alone.
“Marjorie and Alan have always loved and supported us all and naturally we want to do the same for her. We know that this would be in accordance with Alan’s wishes too.
“Our ultimate wish for the future is to be involved in the planning of Marjorie’s case. We hope in the future to be able to work with the relevant services to allow Marjorie to return to her loving family and her home, with us all by her side.”
Mr Justice Nicklin said he was satisfied that upon Grayson’s release from hospital her family would provide adequate support, with the assistance of community mental health services, and he believed there was no need to impose an additional order for the protection of the public.
Julia Smart QC, defending, told the court Grayson had been an ‘exemplary’ mother and grandmother, and said it was clear she had acted ‘out of character’ that morning.
She described Grayson as a ‘kind, caring and extremely selfless’ woman who had never previously displayed any form of aggression and as a young woman had been commended for saving a neighbour’s life.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Simon Palmer, the senior investigating officer in the case, said: “This is a terribly sad case and it has had a profound impact on the family. I would like to extend my thanks to them for acting with dignity throughout the investigation at what must have been an incredibly difficult time in their lives.
“The investigation found no history between Alan and Marjorie Grayson that provided any explanation to the events of that day, which makes the circumstances so very unexpected and tragic for everyone connected.”