FORK lift truck driver Brian Buckley told a jury he had been trying to stop Leah Ingham from fighting with him over a bottle of methadone when she died.
During the struggle he did have his arm and hand around her throat, he told a court. She went limp and he realised she was dead.
He admitted he had punched her “full force” and headbutted her at their home in Montgomery Road, Wrexham, but he denied he had intended to kill her or cause her serious harm.
Buckley admitted he had called her a “heroin whore” to a police officer and said that was how he regarded her at the time.
When she was off the drugs, she was a lovely woman and a great mother, he told Mold Crown Court. “You could not wish to meet a nicer person.”
But things started to go wrong when she relapsed into drug taking.
He also knew the relationship was coming to an end and she had someone else.
Buckley said if she wanted to be with someone else then so be it but she was not to take the children into a drugs den.
The prosecution say he battered the 25-year-old mother of his two children in a rage and did not call an ambulance. Two hours passed before he rang the police.
Giving evidence yesterday, Buckley said he had stopped taking drugs. Miss Ingham was still on prescribed methadone, but he started noticing things.
She would be lethargic all the time and he noticed little corners of bags and she eventually admitted she had relapsed.
“I didn’t want to believe it. We had the children, we had everything. We had built up so much but the drugs were starting to creep back in,” he said.
Questioned by his barrister, Patrick Harrington QC, Buckley said police had been called to their home previously by Miss Ingham because of arguments they had about drugs.
He said he found needles in the house and was concerned about the children.
Buckley said while he expressed himself in strong terms he did not strike her. “I knew she was seeing someone else and that she was on heroin,” he said.
“The heroin led to arguments. I said if you want to be with someone else you can go but you are not taking the kids into that world.
“If we did not have the children it would not be an issue,” he said.
On the Sunday she died he said he was sick of pretending everything was all right and did not go as arranged to her mother’s for Sunday lunch. He told her stepfather they were splitting up.
She returned with the children at about 7.45pm and they were put to bed.
Downstairs they started talking about her drug use and he had said he did not want drug takers around his children.
He went to have a cigarette by the back door and when he returned he saw her jump back onto the sofa and realised she had been in her handbag.
Buckley said he tipped the bag over and out fell a large bottle of street methadone, which was different to the small plastic bottles of methadone she was prescribed.
He told her to phone the police, which she would do when they rowed, so he could give them the drugs.
They spoke about the Child Support Agency and he said Miss Ingham told him she had sent the organisation a letter, and signed his name, saying he would give her £50 a week.
“I knew nothing about it,” he said.
It turned into a fight over the bottle of methadone. There was a struggle at first with her trying to grab the bottle. They fell over the sofa and both ended up on the floor, he said.
Miss Ingham was scratching his face and shouting “give me the bottle”. She punched him and slapped him and he said it had gone too far.
He managed to get back up but said she was clawing at his face. She punched him and he punched her back to her face and shoulders.
Miss Ingham tried to hit him with a crystal clock which bounced off his head.
At one stage during the struggle he caught her on the side of the head with the bottle.
Both ended up on the floor again and he said he put his arm around her throat and kept asking her to stop fighting.
She stopped struggling and he got up from underneath her. “She was quite still,” he said.
Buckley said he thought he had given her “a sleeper” when she had fainted because of the pressure on her throat, but she did not make any further movement.
“I thought she was dead,” he said.
Buckley then admitted using a television remote control and a child’s brolly on her and he alleged he retrieved amphetamine from her body.
“There were no sexual connotations whatsoever,” he said.
He then took all the methadone and the amphetamine himself but said he did not know if he was trying to kill himself.
Buckley said he had not intended to kill her, cause her serious harm or deprive his children of their mother.
Simon Medland, prosecuting, said while Miss Ingham had helped Buckley get off the drugs and given him two lovely children, he had not shown her a moment of kindness when she relapsed into heroin use but had reacted in a violent and controlling way.
Buckley admitted he had assumed he had caused a gaping wound to her face by headbutting her and said he previously described his punching as full force.
Mr Medland said Miss Ingham had been “battered” and died on the living room floor. There was blood up the walls and onto the ceiling because of the ferocity of the attack.
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