Essex man jailed for five years for stabbing “nagging” partner to death

A RETIRED college lecturer who stabbed his ‘nagging’ partner to death was acquitted of murder at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday, and instead received a five-year jail sentence for manslaughter.

Ronald Edwards, 65, of Fielden in Ardley End, attacked Sylvia Rowley-Bailey, 66, when she launched into “an assassination” – as he described it – at their Hatfield Heath home.

He used a 13cm long, 2cm wide kitchen knife during the ferocious assault last June while she sat at her computer. Ms Rowley-Bailey was stabbed 12 times in the head and chest, and died because her pulmonary artery and jugular vein were severed.

Edwards denied murder on June 11, but accepted that he had committed manslaughter on the grounds of provocation.

Crying throughout his evidence, Edwards claimed he felt unwell and upset as she tore into him. She went “on and on and on” about how useless he was and how she hated everything about him, he said.

He told the court that she had also “wickedly” wished his 88-year-old mother dead so he would inherit and could buy out her share of their �310,000 bungalow.

He said he remembered standing in the kitchen holding the knife, but nothing else until he was on top of her in the study. “I couldn’t believe what I had done,” he told the court.

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The jury returned a not guilty verdict to murder but guilty on the manslaughter alternative.

Judge Mr Justice Andrew Nicol said as he passed sentence that during the nine months leading up to the attack Ms Rowley-Bailey had been openly critical of Edwards. He said that matters came to a head on June 11, which was “the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back”.

However, he said that Edwards had shown genuine remorse to 999 operators, to police at the scene and when giving his evidence. Witnesses had described Edwards as a non-violent and unflappable person.

The couple met through an internet dating site in 2002 and moved in together in 2004. But the usually active Edwards suffered a massive heart attack at that time and their relationship began to deteriorate.

It reached a point where they were no longer talking to each other and she had split the bungalow into his and her sitting rooms.

On the morning of her death, she told him he could no longer sleep in “her” bed – although they were no longer having sex anyway, and then began her “assassination”, he said.

Neighbours told the court how they heard Ms Rowley-Bailey shouting during the six years they lived in Fielden and described her as the dominant partner, aggressive, berating and belittling Edwards. He never answered back.

The victim’s daughter, Holly Bailey, 37, had not seen her mother for 23 years.

She said after the trial: “I feel that the horrific and brutal killing of my mother was an unnecessary act of violence.

“My mother tried to make contact with me before her death following many years of estrangement, but Edwards has now removed any chance of reconciliation that I may have had.

“He has accused her of a lot of things, but not only was she unable to defend herself in the attack; she was unable to defend herself on the witness stand.”