Published: 18:00, 10 April 2014
| Updated: 18:01, 10 April 2014
A self-confessed “evil” husband pleaded in court to be excused from describing how he killed his estranged wife by strangling her with a length of rope and then battering her with a piece of wood.
Lee Birch was giving evidence at his trial where he denied murder and relied on the “partial defence” of loss of control, which can reduce the offence to manslaughter.
The 55-year-old former boss of the Why Not? micropub, of Lymington Road, Westgate, had sobbed during his early testimony as he continued to declare his love for Anne Birch.
But when it came to the point where he killed her in a field in Kingsgate one afternoon, he broke down and asked his QC Cairns Nelson: “Can we leave this bit? You know what happened. I haven’t denied anything they said I have done.”
Told by Judge Philip Statman that he must answer the questions, he wept: “I can’t do it.”
The judge decided to adjourn for the day and when the case resumed today Birch apologised and agreed to continue.
Maidstone Crown Court has heard Birch stalked his wife for months at the former marital home in Nethercourt Gardens, Ramsgate, flouting court orders banning him from any contact, before launching the fatal attack on November 7 last year.
Pathologist Dr Simon Poole said the rope had been looped at least four times around the victim’s neck and tied with a knot. She had multiple fractures to her face and head.
The prosecution alleged that Birch also intended to kill his wife’s new partner Michael Daniels, but could not find him.
Birch claimed he had been offered decorating work and on the morning of the day he killed his wife he went to her home to collect his ladders and other equipment.
While doing so, he said, he saw some rope in the shed and cut it into pieces.
Asked what he would say if it was suggested he cut it to carry out a plan to kill his wife of 17 years, he said: “It is wrong. I would never have harmed Anne. I didn’t go there to kill Anne. The rope went in my pocket.”
Birch said he realised he could be seen from the house and fled because he thought he would be arrested for breaching court orders.
He went to Ramsgate harbour for a shower and later decided to go and find his wife to “have a chat”.
He knew she would be walking dogs as part of their business Molly Cuddles in the Whiteness Road area of Kingsgate. He went into the field and told her they could talk.
“By this stage, I had been told Anne had a new man in her life,” he told the jury. “I still believed there was hope. She didn’t want to talk. She swore at me. She said: ‘I don’t want you. I don’t love you.’”
She told him their daughter Molly never wanted to see him again and that she had a new man she had known for 30 years.
“I grabbed hold of her coat,” he continued. “I needed to talk to her. She pushed me. I slipped over. I got up. I took the rope out of my pocket and put it on the floor.
“We fell back to the ground. I had one small piece of rope to scare her into telling me everything, of what I had done. More words were exchanged.
“She was laughing. She didn’t think it was serious. I put the rope around Anne’s neck twice. It was quick. I strangled Anne.”
Birch said he picked up a branch and struck her on the head. It broke. There were possibly five blows, he said.
Asked why he struck her, he replied: “I didn’t want Anne to suffer. I was not in control of myself at this stage. It was a culmination of everything that had happened over the months.
"I cuddled her. I told her I loved her and will always love her, and I was so sorry” - Lee Birch
“I don’t know if she was conscious before I hit her with the branch. I tied the rope in a knot while it was still around her neck.
"I cuddled her. I told her I loved her and will always love her, and I was so sorry.”
Mr Nelson asked why he killed his wife. He sobbed: “I don’t know. I never would have hurt her. I never would have taken Anne from Molly. I think about it every day.
"You can’t justify what I have done. What I have done is evil and it was wrong. How can I justify that? I can’t."
The trial continues.
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