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Axe killer 'may have had battered woman syndrome'

A forensic psychiatrist told a court how he believes a former escort girl "just flipped" when she hacked her lover to death with an axe.

Professor Nigel Eastman told Leeds Crown Court he thought Jan Charlton, 36, would have been "terrified" and in a state of "high arousal" before killing 40-year-old businessman Danny O'Brien.

Mr O'Brien was found with an axe embedded in his head at the home they shared in Midgley, West Yorkshire, on May 23 last year. He had been struck at least 20 times.

Charlton, who admits killing Mr O'Brien but denies murder, claims lawful self-defence and provocation after he allegedly threatened to kill both her and her three-year-old daughter, Amy.

Giving evidence for the defence, Prof Eastman told the court: "I think that Mrs Charlton was terrified that he was going to abuse her child, kill her child and herself, and that he was a man who was deeply abnormal and unpredictable. I think she realised that he could not cope with the end of their relationship and he could kill her."

Prof Eastman, who spent five-and-a-half hours assessing Charlton in February this year, says he believes Charlton would have been in a state of "incredibly high arousal" and eventually "just lost control".

Earlier, Prof Eastman told the court Charlton had shown symptoms of depression and had been prescribed anti-depressant medication by her GP in the months before the killing. Charlton had, in his view, exhibited a number of features of what were commonly known as "Battered Woman Syndrome".

He says he believed Charlton did not have particularly high self-esteem and was therefore more susceptible to being "groomed" into an abusive relationship.

During the trial, Charlton told the jury how she began a kinky sex session with Mr O'Brien to try to calm him down when he threatened to have sex with her daughter. She said she then grabbed the axe and hit him on the head with it as he was in a kneeling position, blindfolded and gagged.

The prosecution alleges Charlton killed Mr O'Brien in "revenge" because he intended to end their relationship and return to his former girlfriend, Lynn Golland.

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