Rotherham cancer patient admits killing wife and daughter

Peter Redfern has admitted killing his wife and murdering his daughter in Wath.
Peter Redfern has admitted killing his wife and murdering his daughter in Wath.
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A terminal cancer patient who suffered severe depression caused by chemotherapy drugs has admitted killing his wife and murdering his daughter at their South Yorkshire home.

Peter Redfern, aged 70, put a bag over the head of his 67-year-old wife Jean and strangled her then waited for his daughter Sarah, 33, to get home from work and bludgeoned her to death with a hammer, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Graham Reeds QC, prosecuting, said until last July Redfern, a retired gas fitter was of ‘exemplary character’.

But at the time of the killings he had been taking part in a drugs trial and had probably suffered from an ‘adverse drug-induced psychiatric event’ caused by the steroids being used to treat his terminal bone marrow cancer.

Frail Redfern, of Sandygate, Wath, bowed his head in the dock as the prosecution case was outlined to the judge today.

He pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and guilty to his daughter’s murder.

Mr Reeds QC told the court the couple met when they both worked for British Gas in Rotherham and were married in 1968.

They moved into the family home in Wath, shortly afterwards and Sarah was born in 1980.

“By all accounts they were a close-knit family who tended to socialise together, rather than with outsiders,” said Mr Reeds.

“They always took their holidays and day trips together as a family and Jean and Sarah were described as ‘best friends who spent most of their spare time together’.”

But in May 2013 Redfern was diagnosed with untreatable bone marrow cancer.

Mr Reeds said: “He was offered chemotherapy treatment and entered into a national trial which involved treatment with particular drug combinations known to have beneficial outcomes.”

The court heard on July 4 Redfern stopped taking his medication because he was suffering from side effects which included loss of appetite and feeling jittery.

He started another combination of drugs but stopped taking them on July 11.

Mr Reed said at 6.43pm on July 22, Redfern made a 999 call, telling the operator ‘my name’s Peter Redfern and I’ve just killed my wife and daughter’.

Police arrived to find Jean Redfern’s body in the bedroom and Sarah Redfern face down on the kitchen floor.

Post mortems found Mrs Redfern had been asphyxiated while Sarah was beaten to death with a hammer.

Both had plastic bags over their heads, secured with white electrical flex.

When Redfern was arrested he told police he was feeling depressed, anxious and worried about his future and concerned about how his wife and daughter would manage if he died.

He told a psychiatrist when he realised he’d killed his wife, he couldn’t let his daughter live to see what he had done and decided he would kill her too.

Mark George QC, defending Redfern, said it was a ‘totally tragic case’.

“He has never really been able to explain why he killed his wife but he has always maintained the only thing he can think of was that it must be linked to the treatment he had for the cancer.

“He had no motive to wish to harm Jean in any way.

“He acted without any premeditation or thought and entirely on the spur of the moment.

“When you have a man who has reached the age of 70 who has led an utterly blameless life and something as devastating as this happens it’s hard to get away from the feeling that in some way, perhaps not entirely understood, there was something about the effect on him for the treatment he had for cancer which precipitated this catastrophic chain of events.”

DI Chris Singleton from South Yorkshire Police said: “Peter Redfern killed 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.

“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.”

Redfern will be sentenced tomorrow.