Stabbing victim was 'violent and controlling', murder trial hears

Tennyson Way Exmouth GSV 1

The stabbing happened at a house in Tennyson Way, Exmouth - Credit: Google Street View

A woman who stabbed her husband at their home in Exmouth has told a jury he was violent and controlling during their relationship.

Tanya Hoskin said she had no memory of stabbing Nigel Johnstone two days after they had spent Christmas in lockdown in 2020.

She used a knife to inflict a single blow which caused fatal internal bleeding in a stabbing that happened as she was on the phone to her sister.

Hoskin told Exeter Crown Court that 55-year-old Johnston had imposed himself on her sexually and controlled her finances and other aspects of her life in the six years since they had resumed their marriage.

She said he regularly put an arm around her neck and put her into a ‘sleeper’ or ‘primal’ hold in which he throttled her until she could not breath or lost consciousness.

She also told the jury that Mr Johnstone was a secret drinker who hid his habit from everyone but herself and gave a false impression of their relationship.

Hoskin, 52, of Tennyson Way, Exmouth, denies murder. She says she was acting in self defence or the stabbing was an accident.

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She told the jury she was brought up in a pub in Plymouth which was run by her parents and where she was raped by a customer when she was 15.

She says she moved to Exmouth and met Mr Johnstone in the 1980s, having two children together and marrying before splitting up in 1993.

Hoskin said she had a series of abusive relationships with other men while Mr Johnstone married another woman, but they got together again in 2013 after that relationship broke up.

She said they appeared to others to be a happy couple but in reality, he was violent towards her, putting her in the ‘sleeper hold’ when she argued with him or threatened to leave.

She alleged he had stopped her leaving the house in the past by pulling her back from the door, locking the door, and taking the key.

Hoskin said he also tried to control her use of money, ‘going mad’ when she bought a present for their son. He also told her not to celebrate Christmas because he thought it was over commercialised and a waste of money.

She said she had no memory of the hour before the killing, during which she recorded a bizarre argument between them on her phone in which she got him to confess to putting her into sleeper holds in the past.

In the taped conversation, she was heard talking about a Zombie Apocalypse and saying she would go with the first Zombie who came through the door.

She told the jury: “It was my way of expressing that I had just given up. It was just an expression I used. It could have been a mad axeman or anyone.”

Hoskin said she could not remember phoning her sister Mandy or telling her that Mr Johnston was trying to bite her. She could not remember tapping a knife on a counter or carrying out the stabbing itself.

Asked whether he had been a placid man, she said: “That was how he appeared to the outside world. That was not what he was like behind closed doors.

“Now, I feel pretty cut off. I don’t even have any emotion. I don’t see Nigel as dead. I still think of him as being alive.”

She said she also had no memory of giving a police interview the next day in which she told detectives that he had never been violent towards her and never forced himself on her.

The trial continues.