Sally Challen: Woman who killed husband with hammer wins appeal but faces retrial

A woman who killed her husband by hitting him with a hammer more than 20 times has won an appeal against her murder conviction, with the Court of Appeal ruling she must be retried.

Sally Challen was sentenced to 22 years behind bars in 2011 for the murder of her husband the summer before. Her sentence was appealed and later reduced by four years.

Challen alleges she suffered years of psychological abuse at the hands of her husband, Richard. During the original court case, she admitted killing the former car dealer but denied murder, claiming diminished responsibility.

At the time of Sally's 2011 conviction, ‘coercive control’ was not a crime in England and Wales. Not until 2015 was it recognised in law as a form of domestic abuse. Her lawyers believe this change of law would have changed the ruling over her husband's death.

The announcement of Challen's retrial is a watershed moment for 'coercive control' and domestic violence cases in the United Kingdom.

David Challen says his mother faced years of coercive control from their father. Credit: David Challen

Appearing via video link, Challen was seen crying as the judge summed up the case.

Speaking outside the court, her son David said: "It's an amazing moment."

He continued: "The courts have acknowledged this case needs to be looked at again.

"We've always said as a family the abuse our mother suffered we felt was never recognised properly and her mental condition was not taken into account.

"We get another shot at getting our story heard, the events that led to our father's death to be heard, and for our mother to have a right shot at freedom she's never had since the age of 15."

A bail application, which would have seen Challen freed from prison, was rejected by the court.

Sally met her "charismatic" husband, when she was just 15.

But after 40 years of a constant "drip, drip, drip" of psychological abuse, her son says she was left an "empty shell."

Speaking to ITV News ahead of this week's hearing, he said: "Our dad was controlling. He controlled what we could all do really. Our mother was the main engine of the house and she would never answer back to him. He controlled everything that she did and where she would go."

He added whilst he and his brother knew their father's pattern of behaviour was wrong, the family did not know how to describe it.

David with members of Justice for Women outside the Royal Courts of Justice, March 2018 Credit: PA

David said: "We all knew there was something wrong going on but we didn't have the language; there was no language there and we were all gagged victims. And now we've understood and we've been able to put it all together under a bracket of coercive control."

David believes the outcome of the case will have a far reaching impact for those suffering psychological abuse.

"It's not just our appeal. It's an appeal for thousands of victims who are silenced by coercive control, who are listening and watching this case to see if abuse will be heard and recognised property because in the courts the severity isn't recognised at all."