Controversial sentence stirs memories

AS ZENA Burton was given a chance to put her life back together, her harrowing story brought back uncomfortable memories for one resident of an Ipswich refuge.

AS ZENA Burton was given a chance to put her life back together, her harrowing story brought back uncomfortable memories for one resident of an Ipswich refuge.

She had suffered at the hands of two partners before finally making a break with the past.

In one sustained attack, her first boyfriend broke two of her ribs causing her to miscarry her baby.

Four years later, her husband, a committed Christian who banned her from leaving the house and even accompanied her to the toilet, subjected to her to repeated vicious attacks.

Like Zena Burton, she planned to murder her husband, down to selecting and sharpening the kitchen knife she was going to use.

The mother of two said: "I just wanted to cut out all the pain and anger and hatred.

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"In the end, I couldn't go through with it. But I can empathise with a woman who does, though."

She still lives in fear of her life.

She said: "When my husband beat me up when I was pregnant, I already knew what to do because my boyfriend before him used to do it.

"I would roll up in a ball to protect my stomach with my arms. My first boyfriend once attacked me so badly that I needed plastic surgery on my face.

"That was my punishment for going out for the first time in three years. He thought I was seeing someone else, he got so jealous, even when I talked to other women.

"In that attack he threw me from a first storey building through plate glass, then he smashed a Jack Daniels bottle over my head and threw me down the stairs."

The woman, unable to give her name in case her husband tracks her down, was too scared to press charges.

The relationship ended and she met another man in December 1999.

She said: "The minute we got married that was when the trouble started. He told me I was his possession, even that he had a licence to own me.

"He liked everything to be done a certain way. He blamed me for nagging. He was with me 24/7. Even going to the toilet with me.

"When I went out, I had to cover every inch of my flesh. He was so possessive.

"A month into the marriage he said I hadn't done his dinner properly and that he was going to teach me a lesson, he called it a 'seeing to.'

"He kicked me and punched me and held a knife to my stomach. He said if I told anyone he would make it unbearable for me."

The attacks continued for a year until January this year when a final attack made her tell her husband to leave the house.

He was surprised when he agreed.

"I remember saying to a friend, 'That was too easy, it's not over yet.' I knew he would come back to finish me off."

She was right.

She was woken at 4am one morning by a phone call from her mother-in-law saying her husband, fuelled by drink and drugs, was on his way to the house.

"I got up and grabbed the kids and went to a neighbour. He came at 4.30 and kicked in windows and totally wrecked my car. He tampered with the brakes."

She called police who found her and her two children a place in the Ipswich refuge five weeks ago.

"I'm still scared, all the time looking over my shoulder. When my husband said he was going to finish me off, I believe him."

Even now, in order to have any chance of a secure future she and her children will have to change their names.

"My kids are what's important to me. I have to think of their safety. If my husband caught up with us, he would kill me, I am convinced of that."