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Deal family torn apart by sister-in-law’s vicious attack after downing prosecco and Baileys

A drunk woman who was "like a wild animal" as she battered her sister-in-law black and blue at a family gathering has been spared jail.

Emma Varrall had downed prosecco and half a bottle of Baileys before she punched and kicked Debbie Hook so viciously that she was left with a shoe imprint on her back as well as bruising to her face, body, hands and knee.

Shocking pictures show how Debbie Hook, from Deal, was battered black and blue by her sister-in-law Emma Varrall
Shocking pictures show how Debbie Hook, from Deal, was battered black and blue by her sister-in-law Emma Varrall

The two women, both from Deal, had known each other for more than 30 years, with Mrs Hook married to Varrall's brother, Spencer. She had also been a bridesmaid at Varrall's wedding.

But Canterbury Crown Court heard on Thursday that the family had been torn apart by the unprovoked attack, with little hope at present of a reconciliation.

As 49-year-old Varrall sat in the dock, and Mr and Mrs Hook in the public gallery, prosecutor Ben Wild told the court how the "happy" festivities on Boxing Day 2021, at the home of Varrall and Mr Hook's parents were abruptly interrupted by violence.

The Hook family, including their two children, had arrived at 2pm, with Varrall, her partner and children a short time later.

"All described the atmosphere as being happy and fine initially," said Mr Wild, "and there had not been any issues with Emma Varrall before."

However, at around 8pm Mrs Hook, 53, found her sister-in-law shouting with her own daughter.

Varrall's son also became involved and, as the three were grabbing each other, Mrs Hook intervened, shouting at them to stop, continued the prosecutor.

He said: "At this point the defendant began punching Mrs Hook in the face to the right eye and bottom lip. She then pushed Mrs Hook to the floor before kicking her and stamping on her back."

Mr Wild told the court however that it was disputed by Varrall that she had stamped on her sister-in-law.

He then continued: "Debbie Hook was screaming at the defendant to stop but nonetheless she has gone on to kick and punch her to the body."

Debbie Hook, from Deal, had a shoeprint left on her back after being attacked by her sister-in-law
Debbie Hook, from Deal, had a shoeprint left on her back after being attacked by her sister-in-law

Mrs Hook's son then came to her aid and took her into the garden.

"He describes the defendant as having 'a vicious look' about her and saw her kicking his mum in her ribs and punching her to the head," said Mr Wild.

"He escorted his mum away and heard her pleading, 'Don't let her get to me.' She was shaking and crying."

But the attack resumed when Mrs Hook went to go back into the house to retrieve her footwear and leave.

"As she was doing so, the defendant barged into her, causing Mrs Hook to crouch on the ground and the defendant began kicking her again. The victim was shouting at her to stop," added Mr Wild.

Overhearing the commotion and hearing his wife's screams, Spencer Hook, also 53, saw her being kicked by his sister before he was able to pull her off.

"He described the defendant as acting like a wild animal and having gone completely crazy," the prosecutor told the court.

"She had been drinking prosecco and Baileys and it was the first time he had seen her drink for a while."

Mrs Hook was left crying, her top covered in blood, and with multiple cuts and bruises.

Choking back tears as she read her victim impact statement to the court, she described the devastating consequences of the attack, during which she had feared she would die.

“I genuinely thought if she didn't stop she would kill me...”

"It is still difficult to comprehend that our extended family is so fragmented because up until this we were a harmonious family," said Mrs Hook.

"Although she was my sister-in-law she has always been like a sister to me. We have been on numerous family holidays and enjoyed happy times together.

"She was always someone I trusted with my children and someone my children looked up to as a role model.

"The unprovoked attack was a complete shock. I genuinely believed she couldn't have possibly known it was me she was attacking. It just didn't seem possible.

"I kept screaming at her to stop hitting me… I genuinely thought if she didn't stop she would kill me. I was in fear of my life."

Emma Varrall was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court
Emma Varrall was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court

Mrs Hook said as well as her physical injuries, she was left anxious, scared, and lost all confidence. Her husband, she added, had also lost his once close relationship with his sibling.

"By her terrible actions she has decimated the trust I once had for her and my children have lost all respect [for her]. They have struggled with why someone, especially family, would treat their mother in that way," she continued.

"Our lives will never be as they were as no one will ever forget what Emma did… If Emma is capable of assaulting a family member in an unprovoked attack then she is capable of hurting anyone.

"This cannot happen again and she cannot go unpunished for her actions. I'm a reasonable person and I don't want there to be revenge. I just want justice."

Varrall, of Wilson Avenue, was arrested the following day. She initially denied a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm before finally admitting her guilt in August last year.

"I am not sure I have ever seen a case as bad as this in terms of you having split the family up...”

Donna Longcroft, defending, told the court Varrall was "incredibly remorseful" for such "a horrible family fight" and had not drunk since.

"This night, when she let her hair down and it all went wrong, was an anomaly. It will not happen again." she said, adding that Varrall had also been hurt "in the melee" although not by her victim.

Her assertion however that Varrall could not have stamped on Mrs Hook because she had just come out of plaster after "snapping" her foot only prompted Recorder Paul Taylor KC to retort: "She has two feet. That mark got onto that lady's back somehow and it takes significant force to do that."

But on deciding to not send Varrall to prison, he said while she was "a highly decent woman and an admirable member of society", her alcohol-triggered attack had "left its mark and split a happy family in two".

"I am not sure I have ever seen a case as bad as this in terms of you having split the family up. You have broken it apart," he told Varrall.

"I'm not a family judge, I'm not a social worker. But the saddest thing about this whole case is the marks you left on Mrs Hook.

"I suspect they are gone by now but the mental consequences she is going to have for the rest of her life. That's down to you. Why you did it I cannot understand."

Varrall was handed a 20-month jail term suspended for two years, with a six-month tagged curfew between 6pm and 6am. She was also ordered to pay Mrs Hook £1,000 compensation.

But on imposing a restraining order, Recorder Taylor said he was limiting it to 12 months in the hope there was "prospect for some reconciliation and a happy resolution".

At the conclusion of the hearing, Mrs Hook declined to comment regarding the possibility of reconciliation but told KentOnline: "I wanted to prevent this happening again either within the family or outside of the family.

"This sentence will hopefully ensure that this is the case."

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