Man convinced he had Covid shot wife to death over 'lack of attention'

21 October 2021, 21:43 | Updated: 22 October 2021, 00:47

Harthorne-Jones will be detained in a mental health hospital
Harthorne-Jones will be detained in a mental health hospital. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A gun dealer killed his wife with a shotgun when he became convinced he had caught Covid and she was not paying him enough attention.

Peter Hartshorne-Jones used the double barrelled weapon to shoot his wife Silke twice at close range as she lay in bed at their Suffolk home, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Judge Martyn Levett said the "motive is very much left in the air" but noted the 52-year-old defendant believed he had contracted coronavirus, despite there being "no clinical evidence" for that.

Hartshorne-Jones and solicitor Silke, 42, had been using separate bedrooms to social distance by the time of the killing on May 3 last year.

He shot his wife at about 4.30am, with one of the two children in the home going to Silke's room after hearing a gunshot and climbing over her legs before going to find Hartshorne-Jones, thinking an intruder had got in the house.

The case was heard at Ipswich Crown Court
The case was heard at Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: Alamy

The child found him having breakfast. He then called an ambulance and his wife was pronounced dead in hospital.

The court heard Hartshorne-Jones told officers he had not meant to kill his wife, later claiming he could not remember what happened.

The court heard he made contact with care providers 26 times in the 42 days between March 16 and April 27 and told his wife's father he was anxious and "driving Silke crazy".

"She thinks I'm exaggerating and just have a chest infection but I've never felt so unwell," Hartshorne-Jones said, in a statement read by the judge. The court heard how his symptoms could have been caused by anxiety.

He had said in other messages that he wanted to be in a "sanitised, sterile environment".

The judge said the defendant, who was found to have an abnormality of mental functioning, had not disclosed his history of mental health in order to hold firearms, and said Hartshorne-Jones had suffered from a "depressive mental illness" for a decade or potentially even longer.

"You thought your wife, the victim of this fatal shooting, was not paying enough attention to you and your needs," said the judge.

He also described Silke as an "intelligent, resourceful lady" who "had every prospect of furthering her career had her life not been cruelly cut short by her husband".

He said: "There are in fact only two people who could have told me what happened and the reason why but sadly one of them is dead."

The judge told the defendant, who had admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility, that it was not possible to reliably estimate "when you will cease to be a danger", and sentenced him to a hybrid order under the Mental Health Act.

Hartshorne-Jones was given a life term with a minimum of eight years, and he will be detained at a mental health hospital.