A loving son who killed his mother while suffering a violent epileptic fit was today, Friday May 9, cleared of her murder after jury decided he was insane.
Nigel Constable, who had a history of violent epileptic seizures, was left with no recollection of attacking his widowed mother Betty, 79, at her bungalow in Lincolnshire.
The assault left Mrs Constable with “catastrophic” head injuries from which she died 48 hours later.
A jury at Lincoln Crown Court was told the 52-year-old had suffered with the disease for over 30 years - but his seizures had doubled in frequency in the period leading up this mother’s death as a result stress brought on by problems over his disability benefits and issues with his council house landlord .
Constable, of Sherburn Road, Rastrick, Brighouse, West Yorkshire, denied murder on September 22 2013 on the basis that he had no control of his actions due to an epileptic fit.
The jury of eight women and four men took just 20 minutes to find him not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. Constable was not in court for the verdict
He now faces being detained indefinitely in a secure hospital.
Speaking after the trial, Mrs Constable’s daughter, Maureen Anthony, said: “As a family we would like it to be known that my brother loved his mother dearly and this devastating and tragic event has been the result of my brother’s health care for over 40 years.
“We hope that no other family ever has to experience anything like this but until care for the mentally ill improves in this country, unfortunately they will.
“My mother will always be in our thoughts as we move forward and continue to support Nigel in any way possible.”
During the three day trial both the prosecution and the defence accepted that Betty Constable was killed by her son but he committed the fatal act when he had no control over what he was doing.
The jury was told that Nigel Constable was a loving son to his mother and had travelled to her home in Dunholme, north of Lincoln, to help her out with her garden on the weekend of her death.
Mrs Constable’s half-sister Barbara Egan-Wyer told the jury “He loved his mother.”
She said that Nigel Constable had problems with his landlord after moving into his council flat and this caused him stress which was likely to bring on his epilepsy.
“He had issues with the council. He had problems getting through to them. He couldn’t turn his heating down.
“When he had an attack he sometimes landed near it. He had burned all his leg. He’s got burns all down his legs. His epilepsy is triggered by stressful situations.”
Wiliam Harbage QC, prosecuting, said “This is a sad, tragic and unusual case. It concerns the death of an elderly woman who was killed by her own son.
“He caused her very serious head injuries including a fractured skull and brain damage from which she died.
“The unusual feature of this case is that the defendant was a long-standing sufferer from epilepsy who has a history of being violent in the course of and immediately after epileptic seizures.
“He maintains he has no recollection of attacking his mother and suggests he must have done so during the course of or in the immediate aftermath of an epileptic seizure.
“He is in effect saying that he was acting as an automaton and he did not know what he was doing therefore he is not guilty of murder.
“You will hear evidence from two expert witnesses who are both experts in epilepsy. Each formed the opinion that the defendant did indeed attack his mother whilst in this state of automatism brought on by an epileptic seizure. The prosecution do not challenge the opinion of these well qualified experts
“Epilepsy is a disease of the mind. Automatism brought on by epilepsy amounts in law to insanity.
“If you were to conclude that the defendant was responsible for causing the injuries from which his mother died and that he intended to cause that harm then he would be guilty of murder but these are not normal circumstances because of the question of his epilepsy.
“The experts share a common view. Namely that what happened to his mother is likely to have occurred when the defendant was acting in a state of automatism.
“If you are satisfied on the balance of probability that the experts are correct the appropriate verdict for you to return is not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
“We do not invite you to return a verdict of guilty of murder but the defendant is in your charge and it is for you to return a verdict.”
Mr Harbage said emergency services were alerted after Constable contacted relatives for help saying his mother had fallen.
Mrs Constable was found semi-conscious and bleeding heavily. She was taken to hospital but passed away two days later.
Her son later told police that one moment he was sitting in the lounge doing a crossword and the next thing he was coming round to find his mother lying injured in the hallway. He said he must have had an epileptic seizure,.
Mr Harbage said “He had been diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of nine but medication had never completely controlled his seizures.
“Recent events concerning his disability benefits had increased his stress causing his seizures to increase from the usual three to five a month up to eight for that month alone.
“He also spoke of a long running dispute he was having with the Council after moving into a council flat.”
Nigel Constable did not give evidence during his trial but two neuro psychiatrists who examined him both agreed it was probable that the fatal incident occurred when he was suffering from epileptic automatism. The court was told that Constable had been diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy at the age of nine.
Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC, defending, described Constable as “a victim of epilepsy”.
“Not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of murder does not mean Nigel Constable is at liberty.
“It means that he will no longer be imprisoned. He will as a matter of law be confined to a secure mental institution indefinitely.”