Barnston woman cleared of attempted murder of her husband
PUBLISHED: 16:07 28 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:09 28 November 2014
A grieving mother, whose soldier son was killed in Afghanistan, has been cleared of trying to murder her husband who had filed for divorce.
A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court took just three hours at the end of a six and a half day trial to find Elaine Freeman, 56, who lived in Barnston, not guilty.
The jury had been told that she had gone up to her husband Stephen’s attic bedroom carrying a double-barrelled shotgun loaded with two cartridges and said: “This is what you want isn’t it?”.
The gun went off as they struggled on the stairs, narrowly missing his face, and blew a hole right through the ceiling and roof tiles.
The prosecution alleged she intended to shoot him and possibly herself afterwards. However, she claimed that she intended to kill herself in front of him.
The jury also acquitted her on an alternative charge of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Mrs Freeman, dressed in a black dress and jacket, sobbed uncontrollably and was unable to stand as Judge David Turner QC discharged her.
As jurors filed out of the court room, Mrs Freeman turned to them and mouthed “Thank you.”
The court had been told that armed police surrounded the house in Watts Close, Barnston, at 11.30pm on 5 January this year and Mrs Freeman - who had been drinking and was wearing a white and black spotted onesie - was brought to her knees by a rubber bullet fired at her lower back.
She had ignored repeated police instructions and was going back into the kitchen where the gun had been left.
The Freemans’ 19-year marriage was already experiencing problems when Mrs Freeman’s son by a previous marriage was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.
She claimed that her husband Stephen, 46, had not fully supported her in her devastating grief.
His divorce petition arrived two days before Christmas 2013. She had hoped that a Christmas/New Year holiday to Antigua, where they had married, would save their relationship but the court heard that it did not and she then decided to commit suicide.
Her son, married father-of-two Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, of Lytham St Anne’s, was serving with the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. He was blown up in a Warrior armoured personnel carrier with five colleagues in southern Afghanistan in March 2012.
Giving evidence Mrs Freeman, who worked for a vending company, said despite feeling her husband lacked empathy with her grieving, she did not want a divorce.
“I still loved him. I was lonely and empty. I just wanted to die,” she had told the jury.
Giving her explanation of the shotgun incident she told them : “I wanted Stephen to know it was over, there was nothing left. I wanted him to see that there was nothing left, that there would never be me again. I would be no more.”
Visibly shaking and stammering in distress throughout her hours in the witness box, she claimed her husband’s finger was on the trigger as he tried to grab it off her and that was when it went off.
Mr Freeman, a digger driver, told the jury he heard his wife on the stairs and got up to see her carrying a shotgun levelled at his chest.
“As I pushed the barrel away the next thing I heard was a whoosh and then a bang. I felt the wind go past the side of my face,” he said.