Years of fear ended in death of lover

DECADES of fear as a victim of abuse drove a Felixstowe woman to kill her partner, she admitted in court today.Zena Burton pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her partner John Westgate - after an argument over an England football match.

By Nick Richards

DECADES of fear as a victim of abuse drove a Felixstowe woman to kill her partner, she admitted in court today.

Zena Burton pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her partner John Westgate - after an argument over an England football match.

Appearing at Norwich Crown Court, Burton, 45, pleaded not guilty to murdering John Westgate, 36, at their home in Undercliffe Road West in September last year, but she admitted that she had caused manslaughter by reasonable provocation, after they had both consumed large amounts of alcohol.


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Prosecutor David Whitehouse QC, told the court that for more than two years the couple had been involved in a stormy relationship.

He said: "Since the summer of 1999 they were involved in a volatile and violent relationship.

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"Both were heavily reliant on alcohol. Noise was often heard at their home and there was a history of domestic violence."

Burton, smartly dressed in a dark suit, remained motionless as details of the incident that killed Mr Westgate were read out in court.

Mr Whitehouse said: "On September 5, Mr Turner, a caretaker at the flats they lived in, saw Mr Westgate carrying a couple of bottles of alcohol. At some stage Zena Burton put a length of television aerial flex around Mr Westgate's neck and pulled it tight.

"It seems he (Westgate) tried unsuccessfully to release the pressure."

He said Mr Westgate was found the next morning "doubled up in a crouched position," by police, who had been called by Burton's daughter after she had heard about the incident in a phone call from her mother.

He was certified dead later that morning.

Burton told police after the incident that she had been fooling around with the TV aerial, and put it round his neck because he wouldn't let her watch the England v Albania football match.

Burton had consumed three litres of strong cider on September 5 while Westgate had 332 milligrams of alcohol in his blood – four times over the legal limit for driving.

A post mortem gave the cause of death as "upper airwave obstruction".

Graham Parkins QC mitigating, said: "This is a sad story of a woman who had been abused for more than half her life and this was not simply a case of an argument over a football match.

"Since the age of 17 she had been involved in three partnerships all which had been completely disastrous and had a history of abuse. In these relationships she had been scarred burnt by cigarettes, raped and beaten."

Mr Parkins said that Mr Westgate had previously headbutted her, and on one occasion he had threatened to pull her tongue out.

After an argument in a beach hut in Felixstowe, Mr Westgate pushed a pair of pliers into her mouth in an attempt to pull the tongue out leaving her bleeding heavily and with a tooth missing.

Mr Parkins QC said Burton was an example of a woman who had suffered from "battered woman syndrome," in which she had been emotionally and physically abused.

Referring to the day of the incident, Mr Parkins said: "As usual, she had been taunted and terrified. They had been arguing all day and she was very upset."

He described Burton as highly patriotic, and someone who considers it her duty to watch international matches when England are playing.

He said the incident with the television flex was "the culmination of decades of fear" and said she had never intended to ill him.

The case was adjourned until May 24 at Norwich Crown Court for pre-sentence review.

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