Monday, 16 December 2019

RAF pilot cleared of trying to kill girlfriend

RAF pilot cleared of trying to kill girlfriend

A ROYAL Air Force helicopter pilot embraced his girlfriend after he was cleared of trying to strangle her to death.

Flt Lt Timothy Barry, 31, attacked Squadron Leader Sarah Seddon, 40, in a bedroom at their home in Mill View, Cuxham, during a drunken row in the early hours of January 14 last year.

But he was found not guilty of attempted murder at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday following a trial lasting more than five days.

The jury of seven men and five women took just over 90 minutes to return their verdict and also cleared Flt Lt Barry of an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

The court heard that the couple were still in a relationship and Ms Seddon had refused to support the prosecution’s case.

They had kept in contact via Skype, emails and phone calls since the attack as Flt Lt Barry’s bail conditions only allowed indirect contact. These were lifted by Judge Ian Pringle QC after the case.

As he left the dock, Flt Lt Barry hugged Ms Seddon and his parents, who were sitting in the public gallery.

The court heard that the attack happened while the couple had both been based at RAF Benson and only days after Ms Seddon had returned from deployment in Afghanistan.

They had an argument in a taxi at the end of a night out in Marlow on January 13 and when they returned home Ms Seddon told her boyfriend she was leaving him.

Flt Lt Barry told the court they were “really drunk” after consuming three bottles of champagne and a bottle of red wine between them and a double gin and tonic and an espresso martini each during the afternoon and evening.

He said he didn’t know why he had put his hands around his girlfriend’s neck or how they ended up there and couldn’t say what was going through his mind at the time.

Asked by defence counsel Lisa Wilding QC if he intended to cause Ms Seddon really serious harm, he replied: “Absolutely not.”

Asked if he wanted to kill her, he answered: “No.”

Barry told the jury: “I genuinely don’t recall how they [his hands] moved up. The next thing I remember is Sarah making a swallowing movement in her neck and that was the thing that sort of jolted me out of what was going on.

“I didn’t really know what was going on, I just saw that I had my hands on her. I never attempted to kill her.”

He said that for a split second, he thought he had killed Ms Seddon.

“I felt like my life was over, that I had ruined everything, that I was a monster,” he said. “Quickly it became obvious she was breathing and her eyes were open and sort of moving around.”

He immediately got off her and called 999.

Flt Lt Barry said: “I wanted to get people there as quickly as possible to help her and get everything I could to make sure she was all right.”

Asked by Ms Wilding why he wanted to do this, he replied: “Because I loved her and nothing’s ever changed.”

The court heard that he had told the 999 operator that he tried to kill Ms Seddon by strangulation but he told the jury that he wanted to get help to her as quickly as possible. He said: “I had been jolted out of this situation and could see that I had hurt her and I wanted the maximum punishment for me.”

The court had heard that he tried to take his own life before the police and ambulance service arrived by cutting both his forearms with a razor blade. He also took several tablets, including 12 to 20 Paracetamol.

He was also given first aid at the scene for the “superficial lacerations” and then taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Flt Lt Barry told the court he had been deployed to Afghanistan on four occasions. During his 2016 tour his Squadron Leader was Ms Seddon, who was married at the time. He said nothing happened between the pair.

When they started to have feelings for one another, he decided to move squadrons so that he was no longer in her chain of command.

Following the move in January 2017, he said he had less responsibility and he struggled with this.

“Throughout the year I’d started to feel quite isolated and depressed and obviously when Sarah had gone away that exacerbated the situation,” he said.

Six months after the attack he returned to work. He said he and Ms Seddon were taking everything that had happened “incredibly seriously” and had arranged for telephone counselling. He said the fact they had maintained their relationship was a testament to their bond.

Flt Lt Barry added: “While I never wanted to cause Sarah any harm, my actions that day did and I have to take the responsibility that lies with that. I want to take responsibility for what happened but, of course, I wish I could go back in time.”

Flt Lt Barry, who admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm at a previous hearing, will be sentenced for that offence on December 19.

The RAF said it would consider the court’s findings but would not comment further until sentence had been passed.

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