Millionaire jailed for bat attack on wife

Last updated at 16:12 12 May 2006

A millionaire was jailed for at least four years today after he repeatedly beat his wife over the head with a rounders bat when she told him their marriage was over.

Philip Cowell could not cope when his wife Faith told him she was leaving and taking their three young daughters with her.

The 44-year-old property tycoon picked up the bat and repeatedly hit her over the head, fracturing her skull, as she lay asleep.

He only stopped his frenzied attack when his eldest daughter came into the room. The 10-year-old had been disturbed by the noise.

Cowell, of Old Cheyne Court, Old Romney, Romney Marsh, Kent, denied attempting to murder his 38-year-old wife in June last year and was cleared after a trial at the Old Bailey, in London, last month.

He admitted causing her grievous bodily harm and Judge Samuel Wiggs sentenced him at Bournemouth Crown Court, in Dorset, today to be jailed for an indeterminate prison sentence for public protection.

The judge told Cowell that he would serve a minimum tariff of four years in custody minus time already spent on remand.

Mr Wiggs told him: "Philip Cowell, what you did to your wife almost a year ago was a most terrible tragedy for her and indeed for your children, and has blighted your wife's physical health forever, not to mention her emotional well-being.

"She would almost certainly have died from a blood clot without medical intervention."

Last month, the Old Bailey heard that Cowell could not sleep and went for a drive in his wife's car after she told him their marriage was over.

The prosecution alleged that Cowell intended to pass off her death as a suicide by planting a pile of her clothes on a beach and her silver Mercedes in a pub car park nearby.

But he told the jury he took a bundle of her clothes to the beach at Dungeness, Kent, where he cuddled them to feel "closer to her" and "smell her".

'I was angry'

He told the court: "I just could not believe she was going to take the four most precious things away from me. She seemed so cold and uncaring about it. I was angry."

He ran back to their five-bedroomed farmhouse, where his wife lay sleeping, but he still could not sleep.

He told the court: "I hit her. The first thing I remember was she started shouting 'Who's that? Stop it.'

"It was like I woke up in a nightmare. She sat up. I just wanted to hold her and comfort her.

"She was shouting and I tried to stop her from shouting. I picked something off the bed - I don't know what it was - and put it over her mouth.

"I wanted to hold her and comfort her. We both fell back on the bed. I was in such a haze."

But he denied he had tried to kill her by smothering her with a pillow or towel.

His frenzied attack left his wife with a fractured skull, vertigo and dizzy spells, possibly due to mid-ear damage which affects balance. She has very little taste and smell and will need more surgery for her injured cheek bone.

The couple lived a millionaire lifestyle, were sociable and doted on their three young children.

They had restored their home in a remote part of Kent and then branched out into property by buying a 16th century pub with another couple.

Strains first appeared in their marriage when they sold their marquee business. Mrs Cowell had moved out of their master bedroom and was talking about separating.

But Cowell did not take his wife seriously and tried in vain to move back into her bed.

'Abnormal mental state'

Cowell had never shown violence or aggression to her in the past but a psychiatric report read to the Old Bailey jury stated that Cowell was in "an abnormal mental state because of rejection" and that he was unable to cope with the emotion.

He suffered from a severe dependant personality disorder leading to submissive and clinging behaviour and poor self-esteem.

Someone suffering a dependant personality disorder might turn to others for security and wait passively for leadership. They would lean on others for guidance, assume a passive role and willingly submit in return for affection.

Faith Cowell's father Noel Moor, 73, said outside court today: "She is gradually mending but it's a long job. The medical people said she had a near squeak with it all."

Mr Moor, a retired fruit and vegetable wholesaler from Cheriton in Kent, added: "I don't think Phil is a killer and she, on the other hand, did everything to keep him from killing himself by grabbing the gun when he wanted to take it and shoot himself and to me there was still love between them.

"He had a gun and she tried to wrestle it off him in the state she was in.

"He attacked her and didn't kill her. He damaged her badly but I don't think he meant to kill her.

"He wasn't a violent man. I never saw him brag or boast or get nasty with anybody.

"I spent quite a bit of time in his company, obviously, he was my son-in-law. It still hasn't registered yet. He had never hurt her or hit her, which is why it was completely out of character."

He said the couple's farmhouse was up for sale but Mrs Cowell and the three girls, aged 10, eight and six, who did not attend the hearing, were still living there.

The couple, who have not yet divorced, have been married for around 13 years, he added.

He said his daughter was "very strong" and still goes to London regularly for treatment.

"The blows were so heavy that they had to have a temporary drainage system inside her head. It swells up when you get hit and they had to operate to release the pressure," he said.

He added the impact on the children was "hard to say" but they will need counselling.

"The eldest one has had quite a traumatic experience of it," he said.

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