Ronald King admits manslaughter by diminished responsibility after shooting his wife at De La Mer House care home in Walton last year
PUBLISHED: 18:07 11 July 2016 | UPDATED: 18:07 11 July 2016
The murder trial into a man, 87, accused of shooting his wife dead at a Walton care home has dramatically ended early after new medical evidence came to light.
Ronald King had admitted shooting his wife Rita at the De La Mer House home in Naze Park Road on December 28 last year, but had pleaded not guilty to murder.
Today, on day four of the trial, he entered a guilty plea to manslaughter by diminished responsibility after results from an MRI scan carried out the week before the trial were made available.
King took the witness stand at Chelmsford Crown Court on Thursday, when the trial last sat, and told jurors he had also planned to shoot his “living corpse” sister Eileen – who also lived at the home - as well as himself and his wife, as well as wanting to have the home closed down.
Initially Dr Philip Joseph, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, had ruled King could not claim a defence of diminished responsibility.
But in light of the MRI scan Dr Joseph amended his view in line with the defence psychiatrist and in court said King was suffering with paraphrenia – a late onset condition of paranoid thoughts, such as his concerns about the care home.
Dr Joseph also said King could have frontal lobe dementia, a condition which would not significantly impair his memory but would “led to paranoid thinking, difficulty judging situations and having that general regulatory conscience the frontal lobe provides.”
“I have now seen the scan and full report which shows there’s significant generalised brain damage,” he added.
“He clearly knew what he was doing at the time, he could exercise self-control and had a settled intention to carry out this killing.
“But the area of substantial impairment was his ability to form a rational judgement.”
Patrick Upwood QC, defending, stood with King when the alternative charge was put.
Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, said the guilty manslaughter plea was accepted and the murder charge would no longer be pursued.
King, of Cedar Close, Walton, had previously told the court how he shot his wife as she told him “I’ve had enough”, but was physically unable to turn the gun on himself.
Mrs King, 81, had been diagnosed with dementia two years previously, and although she could hold a short conversation and recognised her husband she could not make big or important decisions, the court had heard.
Judge Charles Gratwicke QC directed the jury of seven women and five men to find King not guilty of murder and guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility, and thanked them for their service.
Essex Police’s senior investigating officer detective inspector Alan Pitcher said after the trial: “Ronald King has today pleaded guilty to manslaughter after killing his wife, Rita King.
“I would like to pay tribute to Ronald and Rita’s families for the support that they have provided to our investigation and the dignity that they have shown throughout.
“This is a particularly sad and tragic case and my thoughts are very much with them at this time. I would urge the media to continue to respect their privacy at this difficult time.”
The family of Mrs King, said: “The tragedy of what happened has had an impact on the whole family. We are a large but close family.
“We would never have imagined what happened to Rita. It has shocked us all and left us deeply saddened.
“We know her last months in the De La Mer home were happy and she was well looked after. She used to love sitting watching the birds, especially when they used the bird bath. We are sure she still watches them now she is at rest.”
The judge will sentence King at a later hearing after medical experts can give advice on whether treatment is available to halt the progression of the paranoia.
He remanded King in custody until sentencing.
King’s sister and brother-in-law sat in the courtroom today.