Sally Challen family ‘overjoyed’ at decision she will not face retrial

The family of a woman who spent nearly a decade behind bars for killing her controlling husband with a hammer is “overjoyed” that she will not face a retrial.

Sally Challen, 65, claimed she suffered years of controlling and humiliating abuse before she killed 61-year-old Richard Challen in August 2010.

The mother-of-two, who is also known as Georgina, had been jailed for life for the murder of the former car dealer following a trial at Guildford Crown Court in 2011.

Georgina Challen court case
Georgina Challen court case

But her conviction was quashed and a new trial ordered at the Court of Appeal in London in February, in light of new evidence about her mental state at the time.

Mrs Challen, of Claygate, Surrey, admitted manslaughter but pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband on August 14 2010 and was due to face a fresh trial on July 1.

But at a hearing before Mr Justice Edis at the Old Bailey on Friday, the prosecution announced the Crown accepted her plea to the lesser charge.

Mrs Challen appeared relieved and tearful in the courtroom packed with family and well-wishers.

Her son David Challen, who watched from the well of the court, wrote on Twitter: “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.

“Our story has become the landmark case society needs to recognise the true severity of coercive control. #SallyChallen #CoerciveControl”

In a victim impact statement read to court, her other son James Challen said: “We have lost a father and we do not seek to justify our mother’s actions.”

But he said his mother “does not deserve to be punished further”.

Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said the Crown’s decision followed a psychiatric report which concluded Mrs Challen was suffering an “adjustment disorder” at the time.

Opening the facts of the case, Ms Carberry said the Challens’ relationship had hit the rocks after 31 years of marriage but they had attempted a reconciliation in 2010.

But suspecting he was seeing another woman, the defendant brought a hammer out of her handbag and attacked him from behind as he ate lunch at the kitchen table.

Afterwards, she went to throw herself off Beachy Head and told a chaplain: “I killed him with a hammer. I hit him lots of times… If I can’t have him, no-one can.”

In her car was a note which stated: “Richard said he would take me back if I signed a post nuptial agreement.

“I said I would and we both saw solicitors yesterday. I then found out he was seeing someone and sleeping with them and had no intention of taking me back. It was all a game so he could get everything.”

When police arrived at the marital home they found the body of Mr Challen, with a hand-written note on top reading: “I love you, Sally.”

David Challen
David Challen

In her police interview, Mrs Challen said her husband was controlling but she still loved him, the court heard.

She also spoke about occasions when she believed he had been unfaithful to her.

Mr Justice Edis will sentence Mrs Challen for manslaughter on Friday afternoon.