Ruth Williams was killed by her husband Anthony in March 2020, at the start of the first coronavirus lockdown. He was acquitted of murder but admitted to manslaughter by diminished responsibility. His defence alleged that he had been suffering from extreme stress and financial strain as a result of the first coronavirus lockdown, and thus argued that his mental health had severely impacted his behaviour and led him to kill his wife. Psychiatrists offered differing assessments of Williams, with one saying that Williams ‘knew what he was doing’ at the time of the killing.
However, Williams’s sentence of just five years was pretty lenient. The way his crime was perceived by the court suggests that he was taken at his word and that the killing was almost framed as an inevitable result of mental stress – something that should concern us all. Here, the judges comments are examined:
Williams himself seemed to immediately appeal to the idea of the legal difference between murder and manslaughter as soon as he got in the police car after the killing. His words are below:
This almost seems like a calculated play on the legal definitions of what makes a domestic killing a manslaughter rather than a murder. Williams pre-empts the controversial ‘loss of control’ defence (which is typically used to seek reduced sentences in domestic homicide by alleging the perpetrator was triggered and pushed to the edge of self-control). That he did this should be seen as calculated and frankly as worrying.