Ex-golf club president (74) stabbed wife with meat thermometer

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

A MENTALLY ill ex-golf club president who stabbed his “devoted” wife of more than 50 years with a meat thermometer, causing life-threatening injuries, has been detained in hospital.

Grandfather Jack Duerden (74) plunged the piercer into the side of Enid Duerden’s face and gashed her throat with a knife at their home in Barnoldswick Road, Barrowford, while in a psychotic condition. The thermometer broke in the violent outburst, leaving the spike stuck inside her head. Mrs Duerden had to undergo emergency surgery to remove it and was in intensive care for four days, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The victim had been found bleeding by neighbours and told them she thought she was going to die. She was to tell police her husband, who had earlier been asking if there was any poison in the house, had asked her to kill him, but she had refused and told him she loved him. He replied she would have to die then.

Mrs Duerden was not in court to see her husband sentenced, but some of their family, who have been visiting the defendant with her at Guild Lodge Hospital, Preston, where he is a patient, were. The hearing was told how Mrs Duerden wanted her husband, who was haunted by what he had done, to come home. In a statement read to the court, the victim had written: “We all miss him very, very much. We all know it was Jack’s illness. If he had been himself, it would not have happened.” Duerden, a former president of Nelson Golf Club, admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm on March 29th.

Mr Jeremy Lasker (prosecuting) said Duerden had a loving and supportive family and the case was tragic. He said that, last September, the defendant fell off a ladder doing repair work at home. He broke his foot and during the course of his recovery from that, became ill.

A keen golfer, he stopped playing and began to have delusional thoughts. He told his wife he believed the police were after him and thought, wrongly, he was in £40,000 debt to “the gas board.” His relatives became concerned about his behaviour.

Mr Lasker said his family referred him to his doctor three weeks before the incident and he was prescribed anti-depressants. The tablets did not appear to work, the family returned to the GP and Duerden was given different medication.

The night before the incident was troubled and disturbed for the couple. He was agitated, pacing up and down the bedroom and staring out of the window. Duerden went downstairs and returned to the bedroom with all the telephones in the house, hugging them to his chest.

The prosecutor said, about 6-45 a.m., Mrs Duerden woke to find her husband standing by her bed, asking if there was poison in the house. She suggested he went downstairs to make a cup of tea, he went down and she put on her dressing gown and joined him. The defendant was standing in the kitchen doorway, with a knife in one hand and the meat thermometer in the other. Duerden said he wanted to die and asked if his wife would kill him. She told him she wouldn’t and she loved him. Her husband looked at her, as if he had “nothing in his eyes”, and told her: “Well, you are going to have to die then.”

Duerden then plunged the thermometer into the side of her head. She believed at that stage she passed out. The piercer entered below her right ear and went in horizontally for several inches. She was also left with cuts to her throat from the knife.

Neighbours saw the victim trying to get out of the back door, with Duerden pulling her back and she was spotted banging on the window, covered in blood. They went round and the defendant told them: “She’s been saying stuff about me and so have other people.”

Mr Lasker said neighbour Sharon Walker went into the kitchen and the defendant said he had not done anything. His wife was in a chair, with blood coming from her face and mouth and saying she thought she was going to die. Mrs Duerden said her husband had tried to kill her. Police and an ambulance were called and the defendant was arrested. He told police his wife started shouting at him and he had gone mad and stabbed her. Duerden pointed to the remains of the thermometer on the table and told officers: ”That’s what I used.”

Mr Robert Elias, for Duerden, said: “His wife loves him and wants nothing more than for him to be back with her.

“He is so full of guilt and grief he cannot accept he will not be immediately sent to prison. He finds it impossible to understand he is not facing prison now.”

Mr Elias said Duerden was not evil but had been in the throes of a serious psychotic condition and “slipped through the net of his GP.”

The barrister added: “This was a dreadful crime. He is a nice and decent man and one hopes he gets well sooner rather than later.”

Sentencing, Judge Robert Altham described the case as exceptional. He said the defendant had led an exemplary, hard-working life and told him: “You are a good and fine man. That’s clear from everything I have read about you.

He said the prognosis for the defendant’s condition remained uncertain. Doctors did not know if he was going to make a full recovery, partial recovery or would relapse. Judge Altham made a hospital order, with a restriction order, without limitation of time.