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November 28, 2002

Two years for deaf woman who killed rapist partner

From: The Glasgow Herald, UK - 28 Nov 2002


A DEAF woman who stabbed the father of her child after he raped her was jailed for two years yesterday.

Julie Hartley was originally charged with murdering Paul Mitchell but the Crown accepted evidence to support her claims of sexual assault and she admitted the less serious charge of culpable homicide.

At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, Lady Cosgrove said there were "very exceptional circumstances" in the case and she took into account Hartley's severe disability as well the dead man's behaviour towards her.

Lady Cosgrove heard Hartley had been deaf since birth, and a sign language interpreter was in court to help her follow the proceedings.

The judge was told Hartley, 34, had gone to Donaldson's School for the Deaf in Edinburgh but had been expelled at the age of 14. She met Mr Mitchell, 36, of Roxburgh Street, Edinburgh as a teenager and they had a daughter, now 11 and looked after by her mother.

James Peoples, QC, advocate-depute, said the couple had an on-off relationship and at the time of the offence still saw each other although they were not living together.

Hartley had a drug addiction problem and between 1986 and 1999 had amassed more than 30 previous convictions, mainly for dishonesty and several for minor assaults. In 1999, she had an operation followed by chemotherapy after contracting ovarian cancer.

On the day before his death Mr Mitchell and Hartley had spent the day together and early on April 19 this year Hartley arrived at a neighbour's flat in Linksview House, Edinburgh, in a distressed state and gestured that someone had been stabbed.

The neighbour went to Hartley's flat and discovered Mr Mitchell with a knife wound to the chest which had penetrated to a depth of three inches and pierced his heart.

Mr Peoples said: "She said he had had intercourse with her without her consent. He had placed his hands round her neck with such force that she could not breathe."

Doctors had found injuries to both sides of Hartley's neck and neighbours had heard shouting and screaming from her flat with a man's voice saying: "I'm sorry".

Ruth Anderson QC, defending, said the couple had been arguing. Mr Mitchell put his hands round her throat and, referring to a previous girlfriend who had committed suicide, told Hartley she would be next. After he pulled her on to the bed, he put a pillow over her face and raped her.

"Mitchell apparently lifted a knife and she describes him as holding the blade towards himself, goading and provoking her. She grabbed the knife and stabbed him once in the chest."

Hartley's jail term was backdated to April to take into account time she has already spent in custody. She could be freed by April next year.

© 2002 The Glasgow Herald