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Heather ARNOLD





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Admitted to psychiatrists that she "hated" Mrs Sutcliffe and had killed her because she wanted to be closer to Mrs Sutcliffe's husband
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: April 30, 1986
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1936
Victims profile: Jeanne Sutcliffe, 39, and her eight-month-old daughter
Method of murder: Beating with an axe
Location: Westbury, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on April 16, 1987

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 cope.

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 Westbury, Wiltshire.

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 retrial.

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 found".

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.


Heather Arnold


The victims


Jeanne Sutcliffe, 39, and her eight-month-old daughter Heidi.



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