Heather Arnold and Paul Sutcliffe
were both teachers at Kingsdown Comprehensive School, Warminster. When
Mrs Arnold's marriage broke up Mr Sutcliffe and his wife, Jeanne, did
their best to try and help the fifty-year-old mathematics teacher to
On Wednesday 30th April 1986,
Paul Sutcliffe returned home from work and discovered the battered
bodies of his 39-year-old wife and eight-month-old baby daughter,
Heidi. Although both bodies had severe head injuries cause of death in
both cases was a cut throat.
Officers investigating had a
feeling that the killer would try and dispose of the murder weapon, an
axe, in the household rubbish. A team of four undercover detectives
worked as dustmen. When they got to Mrs Arnold's house they were given
a white carrier bag. When they examined it they found three charred
pieces of an axe handle. According to the police Mrs Arnold confessed
to the killings following her arrest but, on the advice of her
solicitor, she withdrew her statement.
At her trial that began on 1st
April 1987 at Bristol Crown Court, Heather Arnold told the court that
she had found the axe in her garage. She had not recognised the
implement and had panicked and had felt "some inexplicable need to get
rid of it." Consequently, she had chopped up the handle and tried to
dispose of it in the waste. The axe head was found in her possession
and forensic examination found flakes of red paint from the axe both
on Jeanne Sutcliffe's body and in Heather Arnold's car.
The jury did not believe her story
and on 15th April, after deliberating for over seven hours, returned a
unanimous guilty verdict on two counts of murder. Heather Arnold was
sentenced to life imprisonment.
She was later committed to
Broadmoor from where she appealed against her sentence that she was
suffering from diminished responsibility at the time of the killings.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the case in February 1996.
Double killer's plea rejected
February 8, 1996
A teacher who denied murdering a mother and her baby with an axe 10
years ago cannot now claim she was suffering from diminished
responsibility, the Court of Appeal decided yesterday.
Heather Arnold, 59, was found guilty in 1987 of
murdering Jeanne Sutcliffe and her eight-month-old daughter in
At the trial she said she knew nothing of the
killings. But she later admitted to psychiatrists that she "hated" Mrs
Sutcliffe and had killed her because she wanted to be closer to Mrs
Sutcliffe's husband, Paul, a fellow mathematics teacher.
A consultant psychiatrist at Broadmoor Hospital
said in 1993 that Arnold should appeal against conviction on the
grounds of diminished responsibility. Yesterday the Appeal Court was
asked to either substitute verdicts of "not guilty of murder, guilty
of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility", or order a
But Lord Justice Hobhouse, giving judgment with Mr
Justice Laws and Mr Justice Butterfield, dismissed the appeal. "She
has failed to persuade us that it is necessary or expedient ... to
admit any further evidence," the appeal judges said.
The judge said that before her trial Arnold was
subjected to psychological tests and "no relevant abnormality was
She was shown to be highly intelligent and although
the defence of diminished responsibility was available at the trial,
the defence did not use it. "She was an intelligent and articulate
woman. She was in a fit state to take decisions about her defence and
to instruct her lawyers."
During treatment for depression at Ravenscroft,
Arnold began to give accounts of what had happened which "varied
markedly from what she had said at the time of the trial", Lord
Justice Hobhouse said.
Jeanne Sutcliffe, 39, and her eight-month-old daughter