East Ham pensioner cleared of murdering wheelchair-bound husband

Packiam Ramanathan. Picture: Met Police

Packiam Ramanathan. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Met Police

A pensioner who beat her wheelchair-bound husband to death with a wooden pole after suffering years of abuse has been cleared of his murder.

Kanagusabi Ramanathan. Picture: Met Police

Kanagusabi Ramanathan. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Met Police

Packiam Ramanathan went into a trance when she attacked disabled Kanagusabi Ramanathan, 76, as he lay in his bed, the Old Bailey heard.

The 73-year-old, of Burges Road, East Ham, denied murder but had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, citing her husband’s bullying and abusive behaviour during their 35-year long marriage.

The Old Bailey had heard how the couple had an arranged marriage in 1983 and had fled Sri Lanka in the civil war.

On September 21 last year, paramedics found former shopkeeper Mr Ramanathan dead in his bedroom after the defendant told her neighbour she had hit him.

Police at the scene in Burges Road, East Ham. Picture: Ken Mears

Police at the scene in Burges Road, East Ham. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

He had suffered serious head injuries and multiple wounds to the body and neck, with other injuries to his arms and hands from trying to fend off the blows.

A blood-stained wooden stick was found in a cupboard in the hall of the couple’s flat.

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Prosecutor Sally O’Neill QC had said there had been arguments about money and the defendant had become “very angry” at finding out her husband had written to Sri Lankan police accusing her brother of fraud and theft.

She said: “There is no dispute that the person who used that stick to cause those injuries which killed him was his wife, and the prosecution case is that there can be also no doubt that she did so intending, at the least, to cause him really serious harm and that he was unlawfully killed as a result, that is, that she murdered him.”

“The prosecution case is that this was a brutal and sustained attack by this defendant on a disabled and defenceless elderly man whilst he was lying in his bed and that the attack was probably motivated by anger.”

Giving evidence, the defendant claimed she lost of control after suffering years of bullying and abusive behaviour by her husband.

He allegedly threw sticks at her and subjected her to years of verbal abuse, even accusing her of having an affair with the fishmonger.

Recalling the killing, Ramanathan told jurors: “It was like I was in a trance. I hit him. I do not know. I did not know what I was doing. I could not feel this. I remember him saying don’t hit me. I remember I hit him.

“I lost control at that time. I did not plan anything. I’m not a person who would do such a thing. I don’t know how I did it. For me I still feel like somebody else did it.”

Stephen Kamlish QC, defending, suggested that if Ramanathan had wanted to kill her diabetic husband she could have simply given him a bigger dose of insulin and “no one would have known”.

He said: “Him dying in the night would not have been unexpected. It’s what she could have done.

“The fact it was done in the way it was - with a stick - means there was no planning. The fact it was done with such severity is evidence of loss of control.

“She is frail, she is slight, she is getting on for anorexic weight. It’s hard to beat someone to death with a stick when you are that size.”

He had urged jurors to acquit her of murder, saying: ”After the hell of this trial, the hell of 36 years of abuse, you can show what you think of this prosecution and do the right thing by coming to a very fast verdict.”

The jury deliberated for half an hour to find Ramanathan not guilty of murder.

Det Sgt Anthony Atkin said: “The jury carefully considered the evidence placed before them and felt that this was a sad case whereby Packiam Ramanathan had killed her husband, Kangusabi. In a moment, for one or a number of reasons, she lost self-control therefore is not guilty of murder but of manslaughter, to which Packiam had already pleaded guilty to.

“This was a tragic case whereby an elderly, vulnerable man lost his life and the circumstances surrounding how and why needed to be put to a jury in order that they could listen to Packiam’s account and test this against the evidence.

“I thank them for their time and careful deliberations following which they came to this verdict. I hope this will give some closure to Kangusabi’s family.”

Ramanathan will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday.