Husband murdered wife and elderly lady in ‘psychotic episode’, court hears

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A man snatched an elderly pensioner’s walking stick and beat her to death with it before using it to kill his wife during a “psychotic episode”, a court has heard.

The horrific violent episode erupted just days before Christmas last year in a West Sussex village.

Daniel Appleton, 38, chased his wife Amy out of their home and began to attack her on their driveway on December 22, a court heard.

Good Samaritan passer-by Sandra Seagrave, 76, saw what was happening and hurried over, using her walking stick to assist her.

Despite being less than five feet tall, she bravely intervened by speaking to Appleton in an effort to protect Amy.

It was then, prosecutors say, that Appleton – “intent on murder” – turned his aggression towards the vulnerable pensioner and murdered her with her own walking stick.

He then returned to his wife – a beloved schoolteacher aged 32 – and proceeded to bludgeon her to death with it too.

Appleton, of Hazel Way in Crawley Down, denies their murders and appeared in the dock at Hove Crown Court on Monday for trial.

Hazel Way, Crawley Down
Police at the scene in Hazel Way, Crawley Down (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Immediately after the attack and as the emergency services arrived on the scene the defendant went back into his home and attempted to commit suicide, in the most determined of ways.”

Appleton took a large kitchen knife and stabbed himself at least five times in the chest as well as slashing his thighs seemingly in an effort to cut his femoral arteries.

He also used the knife to slice his own neck, his head, his calf muscle and forearm.

However emergency services were able to save his life and he was eventually charged with the murders.

Mr Corsellis said Appleton, who has no history of criminality or violence, had been experiencing a “psychotic episode”.

He told the jury: “However the key question for you in this trial is: was his mental state due to the use of illegal drugs or was it as a result of a temporary mental psychotic breakdown which the defendant is blameless for?”

Police incident in Crawley Down
Floral tributes in Hazel Way, Crawley Down (Helen William/PA)

Mr Corsellis added: “The defendant accepts that he was responsible, his actions led to the death of his wife and to a passer-by who he had never met before.

“This is not a case of what happened, who did it, but a question of why and the lead up to.”

The defendant and Amy Appleton had married in October 2018 after a relationship of about 13 years, the court heard.

They had returned from a belated honeymoon just months before the killings.

Ms Appleton worked for the last nine years at the local Copthorne Junior School, where she was held in the “highest regard”, Mr Corsellis said.

“She was a loving, generous person who was never confrontational”, he added.

Police incident in Crawley Down
Police forensics officers Hazel Way, Crawley Down (Gareth Fuller/PA)

She could hear the defendant shouting and screaming, saying: “I’ve had f****** enough of this! I’m f****** done with this!”

She could hear Amy Appleton’s voice but it was not loud or confrontational and immediately thought whether to call the police.

She then heard the defendant shout, “I could murder you!”, the court heard.

Ms Greenwell dialled 999 for help and looked out of her window to see the defendant walking down his driveway dressed only in a pair of boxer shorts with his chest puffed out.

She saw Sandra Seagrave walk over to the defendant and gesture towards him with her stick.

Appleton was seen to grab it from her and repeatedly strike her with it with full force, the prosecutor said.

Amy Appleton’s body was seen near the car on the driveway after the attack on her.

One witness, who went over to tend to the unresponsive Ms Appleton, was confronted by the defendant.

Appleton told him: “I know I’ve killed my wife and I know I am going to prison.”

Police arrived and found Appleton inside the house and covered in blood.

The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, continues.

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