A MAN who shoved his partner during a drunken assault at their Lake District home, causing a catastrophic head injury from which she later died, has been jailed for three years.
Patrick Gordon Webster, 62, pushed Katrina Fletcher during a drink-fuelled row inside their St Kentigern’s Close flat in Keswick on the night of September 11 last year.
Webster told paramedics who arrived at the property “we often fight and have fought today”, before revealing: “I’ve pushed her and she possibly hit her head.” He admitted waiting an hour before dialling 999 having been unable to wake her, Carlisle Crown Court heard today (TUES).
Webster made no reference to a severe head injury sustained by Miss Fletcher, who was found lying on a bedroom floor, covered by a duvet. When this was pointed out by one paramedic, he replied: “That was me, then.”
Miss Fletcher – said to have been earlier “drinking considerably” – taken to the city’s Cumberland Infirmary where a CT scan confirmed a large bleed to the right hand side of her brain. She remained deeply unconscious, her condition deteriorated and she died on September 24.
Prosecutor Francis McEntee told the court: “Ultimately the medical opinion was, due to the severity of the injury and the elapsed time since the injury occurred, it was not amenable to surgery.”
Mr McEntee stated of the incident: “We cannot say there was any intention to do the harm.”
Webster initially denied manslaughter and was due to stand trial this week, but changed his plea to guilty. Although Webster told police he couldn’t remember what happened, he later said confessed to a cell mate while in custody and his sister during a phone call from prison he had pushed Miss Fletcher and that she had fallen and hit her head on a bedroom cabinet.
Neighbours knew the couple to be “heavy drinkers”, Mr McEntee said, and “that their relationship was marked if not marred by repeated bickering and arguments”. Webster had two previous convictions for assaulting Miss Fletcher, and an earlier caution for a domestic violence incident.
Miss Fletcher’s sister, Sharron Wilson, read a moving impact statement to the court, describing the family’s lives being turned “upside down” by her death, and being “robbed” of a future with her.
“It was a massive shock, one that we are still struggling to get our head around,” she said. “Being by Katrina’s bedside for days following the incident and seeing our sister die is an experience we will not recover from. No family should have to go through what we have been through.
“Webster had the opportunity to save Trina’s life and took the decision not to. We hope he considers that decision for the rest of his life.”
Colin Aylott QC, defending, said Webster had described Miss Fletcher as his “best friend”, and their years together being “the best of his life”.
“The reality is that he has lost the person he loved the most in the world,” said Mr Aylott. “He knows this was a result of his stupidity in the act of pushing his partner in the way that he did.”
Jailing Webster, latterly of Walker Road, Aberdeen, Judge Peter Davies said of Miss Fletcher: “She lost her life tragically early, and you leave this courtroom in a few minutes knowing that you were responsible for the loss of that life.
“No sentence that I can pass can compensate for the loss of a priceless life. You must live for the rest of your life with the fact that you have caused her death. I am told it will weigh with you, and I have no doubt that it will.”
The family of Katrina Fletcher said: “Patrick Webster had the opportunity to save Trina’s life and took the decision not to. We hope that he considers that decision for the rest of his life.
“The family of Katrina would like to encourage any woman or man that is suffering from domestic violence to please speak out and seek help. Please do not suffer in silence like our beautiful loving sister did. There is help out there for you.
“Trina will always be forever missed by us all.”
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Smith said: “Whilst Webster refused to speak to officers about what occurred that evening inside his home, it is clear that Katrina had suffered extremely serious injuries which, sadly, she was not able to recover from.
“Any chance Katrina had of surviving the assault reduced dramatically due to Webster delaying contacting emergency services. Whilst Katrina desperately needed urgent medical attention, Webster did not contact the emergency services for an hour and then failed to be honest about the extent and nature of her injuries.
“I would like to use this as an opportunity to urge anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse, or who knows someone who is experiencing domestic abuse, to come forward. Our officers can both help you get the support you need to end the violence against you and bring the perpetrator to justice before they can cause further harm.”