IT’S not often a convicted killer, certainly one who has battered his wife to death, receives a sympathetic homecoming, but the case of Worcester postman Christopher Griffiths was somewhat different.

For a start, a headline in this newspaper christened him “The Loveable Wife Killer” and then on his release from prison, after serving only six months of a three year sentence for manslaughter, friends and relatives of 46-year-old Griffiths queued up to say what a good chap he was. Even his mother-in-law said she bore him no ill will and hoped for a reconciliation.

It all began around breakfast time on the spring morning of April 19 in 1984.  Just after 7am, Deansway police station received a chilling telephone call and murder squad detectives raced across the river to a neat semi-detached house in Penhill Crescent, St John’s, where they found  Anne Griffiths slumped, bloodied and dead in the living room.

Forensic experts were called and a post mortem was carried out at Worcester Royal Infirmary where it was confirmed that Mrs Griffiths – described by neighbours as “an attractive mother of three with a pleasant outgoing personality” – had died from severe head injuries. 

The Griffiths had lived in Penhill Crescent for 20 years and the neighbourhood was stunned by the tragedy.

It didn’t take police long to piece together what had happened and the next day, April 20, Christopher Griffiths appeared at Worcester Magistrates Court charged with murdering his wife. 

His trial took place at Oxford Crown Court in the following December with the prosecution laying out a damning indictment of the way Anne Griffiths had died. She had been savagely  battered around the head with a 2ft long metal bar her husband had taken from Worcester Post Office and then as she lay on the floor of the sitting room, he had smothered her with a cushion and strangled her because he believed she was still breathing. It was Griffiths himself who rang police to alert them to the crime.

As he was arrested he was alleged to have said: “All this for 20 years marriage. Then she starts knocking off someone else and taunts me about it.”

The seeds of Anne Griffiths’ affair lay in the contrasting personalities of the couple, for while her husband was said to be a man of “Victorian values” who liked nothing better than to be at home tending his garden or watching TV, Anne Griffiths was “happy go lucky ” and a cheerful extrovert. She had been an active supporter of the local Labour Party and often canvassed for candidates at election time. 

Despite their differences, the Griffiths marriage seemed outwardly fine most of the time, but there had been rows during which Anne Griffiths had been hit. But her mother, who lived with the couple throughout, acted as peacemaker and quietened things down.

However, when Anne began a serious affair with a 28-years-old man she met at the Copper Tops pub in Oldbury Road the fuse was lit for a family explosion that was to lead to her death.

Griffiths found out what was going on and desperately tried to get his wife to end her liaison, but she refused. There was a confrontation when he saw the couple walking arm in arm in the street. It ended with Anne being punched to the ground and Griffiths with a black eye which put him off work.

The night before the fatal attack, the lover walked past the family home and Griffiths saw his wife talking to him through a bedroom window. The postman went to bed to avoid any confrontation but stayed awake churning the torment over in his mind. He told police: “I thought about a lot of things, especially the last three weeks. I kept wondering where it was all going to end.”

The next morning he roused his wife at 6.30am and went downstairs for a wash and shave before going out to the garden shed and picking up a 4lbs metal bar he had taken from work. 

As Anne Griffiths came down and walked unsuspectingly into the lounge, her husband launched his savage attack without warning. There was no preceding conversation. He then rang the police. Griffiths later said: “When it began I had to finish it. I didn’t feel compassion. It felt like someone else was doing it.”

His defence counsel Brian Farrar QC suggested an explanation for Griffiths behaviour might lie in his past. His father was in the military, a company sergeant major serving in India, and although the boy had been born out there he was brought in England and attended Worcester Royal Grammar School gaining six O Levels.

However, the settled family environment was shattered when his mother died and his father re-married. Griffiths did not get on with his step-mother and left home when still a teenager, living for a while at the YMCA hostel in Henwick Road. When he married Anne in September, 1963, it appeared to bring back his security and the couple raised three children.

Mr Farrar added: “When Griffiths learned of his wife’s affair, did he see the cocoon of family life slipping from his grasp? Why she went to another man is rooted in his own disposition, a total inability to show his utter dependence and great love for his wife and family.

Mr Farrar claimed Griffiths was "a decent family man driven beyond the limits of his own endurance.”

Mr Justice Hutchison - who said Griffiths “bore a degree of culpability for this dreadful crime” - sentenced him to three years in prison after he admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.  However as Griffiths had already spent a year in jail on remand, he was released on parole after just six months.

But although his old acquaintances in Worcester offered help and support, including the Mayor Councillor Frank Poole, who was a family friend, Christopher Griffiths did not get his old job back.

City Postmaster Reg Rand said: “Following advice we feel that in the circumstances we could not re-employ him.”