Liskeard scissors killing – woman on trial
A four-times-married woman murdered her latest husband with a pair of dress-making scissors after he refused to help her tidy up, a court heard.
Sandra Clinch, 49, said she threw the brand new scissors at Alan Clinch two hours before their friends were due to arrive for Sunday lunch, at their home in Cornwall on May 13 this year.
Clinch, who has a history of throwing things when losing her temper, immediately called 999 after her husband collapsed in a pool of blood, the court heard. She later told police Mr Clinch had told her to "shut up" when she had tried to tidy their cottage at Caradon Heights, Darite, Liskeard.
Mr Clinch died from a single wound to the chest, caused by scissors, which had been plunged three to four inches into his body, between two ribs. Clinch denies one charge of murder.
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Paul Dunkels QC, prosecuting, said that the couple had an argument on the morning Mr Clinch died, which prompted the attack.
He told Truro Crown Court: "At 10.30am on May 13, Sandra Clinch made a 999 call from her home. She was hysterical. She said: 'I think I just killed my husband. I stabbed him.
"'I threw a pair of scissors at him, he's got them in his chest and he's pouring blood'."
Mr Clinch was airlifted to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth but efforts to save him failed and his wife was arrested.
Mr Dunkels said mother-of-five Clinch had a history of violence when angry.
He told the court: "Sandra Clinch was married three times before Alan, and she has always had a temper. Members of her family say she would readily lose her temper and attack them. She would throw objects, sometimes sharp objects."
The couple met in Luton in 2001 and moved to Cornwall in 2006. Neighbours said they often heard "one-sided arguments" at their Cornish cottage, with Clinch being the more dominant and aggressive, the court was told.
One neighbour even saw Clinch throw a glass bottle at her husband as he left the home on one occasion, Mr Dunkels said.
On the morning Mr Clinch died, Mr Dunkels told the jury how Clinch begged with paramedics to save her husband's life when they arrived at the cottage in Darite, seven minutes after making the emergency phone call.
The court also heard how Clinch told a police officer: "I was trying to clear up the house. He (Mr Clinch) wouldn't help me. I have got friends coming for dinner."
Mr Dunkels said Clinch explained that she had asked her husband to tidy up and that he had simply told her to "shut up". The scissors, the court was told, were new and intended for use with the dress-making course on which Clinch had enrolled.
The six men and six women on the jury were shown the red-handled scissors which caused the fatal injury, and were told of the frantic 999 call made by Clinch as her 48-year-old husband lay dying.
Mr Dunkels said: "The operator asked Sandra Clinch what had happened. She said 'It's (the wound) right by his heart. I did pull them (the scissors) out but I didn't realise I got him. We were having an argument and I picked them up and threw them at him'."
Experts later said it was "extremely unlikely" that simply throwing the scissors would do enough to penetrate Mr Clinch's clothing – a rugby shirt over a T-shirt – before embedding themselves deep into his chest.
Neighbours also said the arguments were often one-sided, giving an impression of a meek Mr Clinch not defending himself against the physical and verbal abuse of his wife.
Adrian Dennis said he regularly heard arguments at the Clinch home. He told the court: "Only one voice was heard – that was the voice of Sandra. It used to scare me – I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of it... (due to) the aggressiveness and the volume." Another neighbour compared Clinch with bad-tempered comic book character The Incredible Hulk, adding: "She would change into a completely different person."
Lisa Townsend, who lived next door to the Clinch family, described American car enthusiast Mr Clinch as "lovely, very helpful and hard-working", but said he had become withdrawn lately.
"If anything, he was a bit wet," she said. "He looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders."
The court was told that Clinch had just got a part-time job working at the Homebase store in Liskeard, where her husband had also worked for six years. Store manager Michael Radford told the court he believed he had previously seen a fight in the car park between the couple, in which Clinch appeared to be "beating or hitting" her husband.
Jurors were told that Clinch confessed to scratching her husband and knocking off his glasses in arguments. They were then played a recording of the 999 call from May 13 in which a hysterical Clinch screams: "He's gone, he's dead."
Mr Dunkels said: "In her 999 call, she used the word 'stabbed'. Her account then became that she threw the scissors 'at him'.
"By the time of her first police interview, her account changed again to having randomly thrown the scissors. We say she was closest to the truth at the beginning."
Clinch shook her head at various points in the hearing, and broke down when the 999 call was played.
The trial continues.