A woman who killed her husband of 31 years with a hammer and had her conviction overturned early this year will not face a retrial for murder, reported the Mirror.
In a landmark decision, Sally Challen’s murder conviction was overturned on Feb. 28, according to the Guardian.
The court of appeal in London had ordered a retrial on July 1.
Challen, who faced decades of coercive control and abuse, killed her 61-year-old husband, Richard in their Surrey home in August 2010. She was convicted and imprisoned for life in 2011.
“As a family, we are overjoyed at today’s verdict and that it has brought an end to the suffering we have endured together for the past 9 years,” Challen’s son, David Challen wrote on Twitter. He had campaigned to free his mother and in the process also became a campaigner against domestic violence.
As a family we are overjoyed at todays verdict and that it has brought an end to the suffering we have endured together for the past 9 years.
— David Challen (@David_Challen) June 7, 2019
Sally and Richard’s Story
Sally was 16 when she and Richard, who was 22, first started dating, according to Justice for Women, a campaign organization that advocates on behalf of women who fought back and killed their violent husbands. The initially charming Richard reportedly soon turned abusive.
“He bullied and belittled her, controlled their money and who she was friends with, not allowing her to socialize without him. But, whilst he forced strict restrictions on her behavior, he himself, would flaunt his money, have numerous affairs and visit brothels,” said the campaign document.
Justice for Women highlighted that whenever Sally challenged Richard he would blame her and make her feel that she was going mad. At one point she decided to divorce, but went back to him and even signed a postnuptial agreement that would deny her financial entitlements in a divorce and prevent her from interrupting him or talking to strangers.
A woman who spent nearly a decade behind bars for killing her abusive husband with a hammer will not face a retrial for murder. Sally Challen, 65, claimed she suffered years of controlling and humiliating abuse before she killed 61-year-old Richard Challen in August 2010 pic.twitter.com/ffMRJ0EWOY
— Amanda Nunn (@AmandaNunnC5) June 7, 2019
Sally killed Richard while the couple was trying to reconcile, according to a 2010 report on Daily Mail. After killing him, she drove 70 miles to Beachy Head in East Sussex where she was saved from jumping off a cliff.
Landmark Case in Court
When Sally was convicted for Richard’s murder, coercive control was not a crime in England and Wales, according to Justice for Women.
It became recognized in the law as a form of domestic abuse only in 2015. “Coercive control is a way of understanding domestic violence which foregrounds the psychological abuse and can involve manipulation, degradation, gaslighting (using mind games to make the other person doubt their sanity) and generally monitoring and controlling the person’s day-to-day life such as their friends, activities, and clothing,” explained Justice for Women.
The advocacy group said coercive control makes a victim isolated and dependent on the abuser.
“In 2017, Justice for Women submitted new grounds of appeal to the Criminal Appeal court highlighting new psychiatric evidence and an expert report showing how coercive control provides a better framework for understanding Sally’s ultimate response in the context of a history of provocation,” said Justice for Women.
Based on this, the court of appeals overturned Sally’s conviction and ordered a retrial.
“The abuse our mother suffered, we felt, was never recognized properly and her mental conditions were not taken into account,” David said after the conviction was overturned, according to The Guardian.
“As sons, we get another shot for our story to be heard, the events that led to our father’s death to be heard, and for our mother to have another shot at freedom–freedom she has never had since the age of 15,” he said.
On Friday, Sally walked free out of court after the judge ruled out the retrial.
“My family have served my sentence with me. They have kept me going for a long and terrible nine years. I want also to thank my friends in and out of prison who have stood by me,” Sally said according to The Guardian.