A 78-year-old Malvern man who battered his wife to death while suffering from advanced dementia does not realise she is dead, a court was told.

Francis O'Neill , who has been detained in a secure hospital indefinitely, still does not know what he has done and continues to ask after his wife twelve months after he killed her, Worcester Crown Court heard.

O'Neill was not required to appear at court for the sentence. He was found unfit to plead on a charge of murdering his 73-year-old wife Monica and instead a jury determined in November that the former merchant seaman was responsible for the death after being told the facts.

Mrs O'Neill, a volunteer at the WRVS shop at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, was found by neighbours at the foot of the stairs at their home in Eston Avenue on January 20 last year after her husband had called next door to say his wife was asleep and he could not wake her. Her bruised and blood-spattered body had 65 injuries, including 14 broken ribs.

The couple were said to be happy and loving and she had been a kind and caring woman.

Gareth Walters, for the prosecution, read two victim personal statements from their daughters. Sinead O'Neill said she had spoken to her mother just hours before she was found dead and regretted she had not properly had a chance to say goodbye. She said she worried that her father would one day be released and her mother's death had had a considerable effect on her life. In the statement, she said she no longer went to church and intended to take her children out of Catholic school because her father had been quite religious and his actions had "made a mockery" of religion.

Katherine Letchford said she was still angry and she now had a low tolerance of other people. She said she was unable to concentrate because she was troubled by memories of her mother and had not even been able to work on a voluntary basis.

Mark Sharman, for O'Neill said it had been a "tragic" case for all involved.

Judge Robert Juckes, QC, expressed his sympathy to the members of the family. He said O'Neill had killed his wife in circumstances of great violence.

"She was attacked for no reason at the top of the stairs and ended lying at the bottom," he said. "There was no other person who could have been responsible."

O'Neill, he said, had been acting in a "bizarre" way on the day but there was nothing to suggest he would act in such a deeply shocking way.

"He has never to this day appreciated what he has done," Judge Juckes said. "He continues to ask after his wife."

He made an order under s37 of the Mental Health Act ordering O'Neill to remain in hospital and an order under s41 of the same act imposing restrictions which mean he will not be released without the specific permission of the Home Secretary for public protection.

The couple's children released the following eulogy to their mother:

"If our mum ruled the world:

It would be Spring all year round. She was born on a Good Friday and loved to see the daffodils and crocuses coming out, knowing her birthday was just round the corner.

We would all live in the same street. Mum would help with school runs and pop round to do chores (preferably ironing) or sneak a casserole into the freezer, or some shopping into the fridge.

BT share prices would plummet, but we would never have to cook or shop again.

If mum ruled the world, there would be no time zones - because she thought that everyone in America should just pick a time and stick to it. I did try to explain how big the US is, but she was unmoved.

Nobody would ever get old and wine wouldn't contain any calories.

There would have to be a couple of extra days in the week, to fit in WRVS, sporadic aqua aerobics, the extra cooking and shopping of course, plus various weekly outings and lunch dates and a few extra hours in the day to allow for planting out baskets, watering the garden and feeding the birds.

Dogs would be allowed on planes - in the cabin that is - (and the airport would be next door) that way she would be able to have her long haired Dachshund and still go to the Carihuela for the annual 3 month sojourn. Also, chocolate would not be poisonous to dogs to ensure that her pampered pooch could be stuffed with chocolate without adverse effect.

There would be a beach close by for early evening beach combing and shell collecting, so maybe she wouldn't need the Carihuela after all.

Friends and neighbours would pop in and out of each other's houses, there would be no self-service petrol stations, Rock and Roll would never have happened and everyone would be able to do long division.

Spring flowers




Walks on the beach

Friends and neighbours

And a staggering capacity for mental arithmetic

Proud grandmother

Devoted mother

Loving wife

Good neighbour

Trusted confidante

Loyal friend

Our mum