A British man with a history of sleepwalking strangled his wife because he was convinced that she was an intruder who had broken into their camper van.
Brian Thomas, 59, and his wife Christine, 57, were on vacation in West Wales when he attacked her in the middle of the night.
Prosecutors accepted the findings of medical experts who said that he had a sleep disorder. They told Swansea Crown Court that they would not seek a conviction for murder or manslaughter.
The couple had been asleep in their camper when they were disturbed by "boy racers" and decided to move. After they went back to bed, Brian Thomas had a nightmare in which the youths broke into their camper van.
He woke up alongside his lifeless wife's body and called for emergency assistance. In a tape of the call played to the jury he was heard telling the emergency operator: "I think I've killed my wife. Oh my God. I thought someone had broken in. I was fighting with those boys but it was Christine. I must have been dreaming or something. What have I done? What have I done? Can you send someone?"
Thomas was crying and shaking when he was found by police officers 10 minutes after making the call. He had said of his wife: "She is my world."
Thomas, of Neath, South Wales, had suffered from sleep disorders for 50 years. Medical experts had carried out tests that confirmed his behavior was "consistent with the legal concept of automatism."
The prosecution said: "In other words, at the time of the killing the defendant was asleep and his mind had no control over what his body was doing." If he is found not guilty due to insanity he will be subject to a psychiatric hospital order and could be detained indefinitely.
of nog: can you be blamed for sleepwalking crimes?
En hij is blijkbaar niet de enige die 'last' heeft van de combinatie slaapwandelen & geweld...
uit: forensic sleep medicine: nocturnal wandering and violence
Forty-one subjects between 12 and 63 years of age with a complaint of nocturnal wandering were reviewed retrospectively, and a prospective investigation of their compliance to treatment was performed. Twenty- nine of 41 subjects committed violence against themselves or others ("violent group"). Clinical investigation of their problem involved polysomnography, wake and sleep EEGs and ambulatory EEG recording in the home environment. The nocturnal wandering may have started from NREM sleep or REM sleep, and violence was observed in both of these sleep states. Arousal from sleep may have been triggered by sleep- disordered breathing or may have been related to temporal lobe abnormalities, and, in some cases, no abnormal polygraphic features were noted. Violence was always preceded by many instances of nocturnal wandering that had received little clinical attention. Temporal lobe abnormalities, a rare cause of nocturnal wandering, were present only in the "violent" group. This group also had a higher percentage of men than the "nonviolent" group. In both groups, the frequency of nocturnal wandering increased with an increase in daytime stressors. Pharmacological and psychiatric treatment approaches were beneficial in both groups.
en tenslotte: wikipedia over slaapwandelen (en geweld):
Because sleepwalking can result in violent behavior, legal courts sometimes deal with cases involving sleepwalkers. These cases include homicide, assault, and sexual harassment. The level of responsibility and severity of punishment has been highly debated because sleepwalkers are almost always oblivious to their activity during an episode. According to Culebras, a Professor of Neurology in the State University of New York College of Medicine, 'It is conceivable that the sleepwalker has the potential to drift into a confusional arousal, a state in which violence and assault are likely when prolonged and if given the adequate circumstances. The differential diagnosis should also include other conditions in which violence related to sleep is a risk, such as RSBD, fugue states, and episodic wandering."' In the 1963 case of Bratty v. Attorney-General for Northern Ireland, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest stated, 'Each set of facts must require a careful examination of its own circumstances, but if by way of taking an illustration it were considered possible for a person to walk in his sleep and to commit a violent crime while genuinely unconscious, then such a person would not be criminally liable for that act'
of verder: sleepwalking violence: a sleep disorder, a legal dilemma, and a psychological challenge (Am J Psychiatry 161:1149-1158, July 2004)
Dido, die gelukkig niet slaapwandelt...