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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Cumbrian law graduate cleared of assault in 'zombie' trial

A law graduate who punched her blood-spattered elderly aunt after mistaking her for a “zombie- type thing” has been cleared of assault by a jury.

Joanne Waite photo
Joanne Waite

Related: ‘Zombie’ trial: 'Victim looked like she'd been in car crash'

Joanne Waite, 44, said she acted in self-defence, thinking she was being attacked, having failed to recognise the “creature” as her 69-year-old aunt Eleanor Huddart because she was so covered in blood.

After hearing three days of evidence, the jury accepted her argument, finding her not guilty of an assault causing actual bodily harm.

When Mrs Huddart staggered into the room where the assault was alleged to have happened, she was so severely injured she looked as if “an invisible axe” had been smashed in her face, Miss Waite told police.

Earlier, the jury was told how Miss Waite, of Wastwater Avenue, Workington, had been at Miss Huddart’s house attending family barbecue last July.

By the end of the evening, the only people left were Miss Waite, her aunt and her husband Henry, who attacked his wife, leaving her with serious injuries, including a fractured eye socket.

The prosecution alleged Miss Waite, who recently completed a law degree, punched Mrs Huddart three times when she walked into a sitting room where she was waiting.

The pensioner supported that version of events in her later statement to police.

But in her evidence, Miss Waite recalled being suddenly confronted by the blood-covered pensioner, saying she did not recognise her. She said: “It was walking slowly: it looked like a 1970s zombie-type thing.”

The pensioner had been covered from head to toe in blood, and looked as if she had “an invisible axe in her face”, Miss Waite told police.

In her evidence, she said she had been shocked and traumatised and scared.

She had then fled the house, and spent the hours afterwards crying and drinking vodka, she said.

Prosecutor Tim Evans argued that Miss Waite had acted strangely afterwards, and despite having seen such a seriously injured person she had not called the police or for an ambulance. But defence barrister Michael Davies, in his closing speech, said Mrs Huddart’s husband had a history of domestic violence towards his wife – so much so that she had a lock fitted to her bedroom door at the house.

By contrast, Miss Waite had no history of violence, and was a caring woman, in whom her aunt had that day confided in about the violence she suffered from her husband.

Mrs Huddart later said she could remember nothing after being hit the first time that day by her husband.

There was also evidence, said Mr Davies, that Henry Huddart had that day shouted to his wife that it was not him who hit her but Miss Waite.

In answer to the riddle of why Mrs Huddart would say Miss Waite attacked her, Mr Davies said: “Her memory was playing tricks.”

In reality, said the barrister, Miss Waite had simply tried to get her blood-covered auntie off her when she staggered into her in the sitting room.

Her punches were “girlie punches,” lacking in any force to cause her aunt any real injury, he said.

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