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Man cleared in killing of wife during nightmare

A British man who said he strangled his wife during a nightmare about fighting off an intruder is innocent in her death.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A British man who said he strangled his wife during a nightmare about fighting off an intruder has been found innocent in her death.

Prosecutors had originally asked a jury to find Brian Thomas not guilty by reason of insanity, which could see him sent to a psychiatric hospital. But they withdrew the case against him on Friday, and said expert opinion was that hospitalization was not appropriate.

"It is now clear that the psychiatrists feel that that would serve no useful purpose and the risk of reoccurrence is very, very small," said Iwan Jenkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Dyfed Powys region in Wales. "We therefore have offered no further evidence and asked the jury to return a simple verdict of not guilty."

Thomas had accepted he had killed Christine, his childhood sweetheart and wife of 40 years, the jury was told at the beginning of his trial earlier this week.

The Thomases, who lived outside Swansea, about 185 miles west of London, were on holiday in their camper van in July 2008. After having their sleep disturbed by cars racing nearby, Brian Thomas had a nightmare that someone was breaking into the van.

The court was told that Brian Thomas suffered from a long-term sleep disorder and was in a state of automatism — where his mind had no control over his body — when he strangled Christine, with whom he had two daughters.

'A decent man'
Jenkins said sophisticated tests by sleep experts were needed to confirm Thomas' condition, and that fewer than 50 instances had been recorded worldwide.

High Court Justice Nigel Davis called Thomas a "decent man and devoted husband" and said he understood that the 59-year-old would feel guilty.

But "in the eyes of the law, you bear no responsibility for what happened," Davis said.