image captionEmma-Jayne Magson (centre), now 28, pictured with her mother and daughter, has been in prison since November 2016
A woman who stabbed her boyfriend to death during an argument has been given a life sentence after twice being convicted of murdering him.
Emma-Jayne Magson alleged James Knight had been strangling her, so she stabbed him with a steak knife in self-defence.
She appealed against her conviction and had a retrial, but the jury did not accept her version of events.
Magson has now been given the same minimum term, 17 years, she was originally given in 2016.
The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said what happened on the night Mr Knight died is still not clear.
“As to the precise circumstances in which you came to inflict the fatal wound to James Knight’s chest, these may never be fully known, as there were no witnesses to the event,” he told Magson while sentencing her.
“However, not only has the jury rejected the suggestion that this occurred in self-defence, but I am sure that the account which you provided to the police in your prepared statement of being strangled by James Knight is untrue.”
Magson’s appeal was aided by Justice for Women – the same group that helped Sally Challen appeal her conviction for murdering her abusive husband with a hammer.
How did James Knight die?
Magson stabbed Mr Knight in the chest with a steak knife at her home in Sylvan Street in Leicester in the early hours of 27 March 2016.
The couple had returned from a night out, during which Magson had drunk large amounts of alcohol and Mr Knight had drunk alcohol and taken cocaine.
The judge said Mr Knight had been behaving “stupidly and somewhat aggressively” as a result of the cocaine, at one point telling a man “no one was going to get his girl”. Mr Knight was asked to leave the bar, police were called, and they spoke to him.
The couple then got a taxi home but started arguing, and the driver asked them to get out after Magson was seen kicking out at Mr Knight.
CCTV in Pool Road then captured Mr Knight as he pushed Magson against a car, causing her to fall to the ground at about 00:45.
Magson is thought to have stabbed Mr Knight at her home between 01:10 and 01:30. The steak knife penetrated his body to a depth of 11.5cm as it passed through one of his lungs and his pulmonary artery.
In her evidence, Magson claimed she had grabbed the steak knife in self-defence because Mr Knight had a hand around her neck and she could not breathe.
While the jury did not accept this, the judge said there was no evidence Magson intended to kill Mr Knight.
“Although I am sure that you were motivated by anger towards James Knight when you stabbed him, I accept that there is no sufficient evidence that you intended to kill him as opposed to causing him to suffer really serious bodily harm,” the judge said.
Was the relationship abusive?
image captionJames Knight died after being stabbed in the chest with a steak knife
Magson and Mr Knight were in a relationship for about six months, having met around the end of September and start of October 2015.
The trial heard how the couple’s relationship moved quickly. Mr Knight moved in with Magson the day after they slept together, she soon became pregnant, but then suffered a miscarriage.
The judge described the relationship as being “volatile and characterised by jealousy on both sides, verbal arguments and some degree of physical violence”.
He said Magson was responsible for some of this violence, including striking Mr Knight with a Hoover pipe and stabbing him in the chest with an item of cutlery.
The court was told of text messages from Mr Knight to Magson, in which he repeatedly called her a “slag”. He also called her “fat” while she was pregnant with his child and told her to “lose weight”.
The retrial heard how Mr Knight admitted to one of his friends that he had gone to strike Magson during the course of an argument.
However, the judge said he was “sure that he showed no further physical violence” towards Magson.
Jurors were also shown photos of red marks on Magson’s neck, which her defence team claimed were caused when Mr Knight strangled her.
However the judge said these red marks “could equally have been caused when James Knight had pushed you [Magson] into the car on Pool Road at an earlier point in the night”.
What did Magson do after the stabbing?
The judge criticised Magson for not immediately calling for an ambulance.
She lied to his brother Kevin Knight, who lived in the same street, and suggested he had been beaten up by some bouncers in town.
He believed her and helped Magson carry his brother back home, not realising he had been fatally wounded.
In her evidence, Magson said: “I was just scared to say it was me and I had caused the problem. I was terrified. Obviously scared to admit to his brother that the reason he was like that was because of me. I didn’t dare say that.”
After Kevin Knight left, Magson phoned 999 to ask for help but did not say she was responsible for him being hurt. Instead, she said it looked as if he had been in a fight with someone.
The judge said her actions “were motivated by a desire to exculpate yourself from responsibility for his murder”.
However, he said there was “no medical evidence as to the likelihood of his life being saved had he received prompt medical attention”.
Why was Magson convicted twice?
image captionThe judge told Magson she may never be released
Magson originally went on trial at Leicester Crown Court in 2016, was found guilty and given a life sentence with a minimum term of 17 years.
However the conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal and a retrial was ordered after it heard that evidence about her mental health was not put before the trial jury.
Magson’s retrial took place at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict following the retrial, so she was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to 2 on 5 March.
When setting her new sentence, the judge explained he was not able to give a minimum term that exceeded the original one.
He told Magson: “You may never be released, as that will only occur if and when the Parole Board is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you should be confined.
“Even if you are released, you will remain on licence and subject to recall for the remainder of your life.”
How did Mr Knight’s family react?
image captionJames Knight had two daughters from his previous relationship
In a statement, Mr Knight’s family said they were “disappointed that Justice for Women felt there was enough evidence to support a retrial, bringing us back in court more than four years on”.
They added: “Their view to make her [Magson] seem completely like the victim was wrong and unfair to James.”
They described Mr Knight as “a devoted father of two beautiful girls, a loving son, brother and uncle as well as a friend to so many”.
“We remember James as a very happy bouncy young man who made everyone’s day brighter with a smile that was infectious, something no-one will ever be able to forget and something we will always treasure,” the statement said.
Justice for Women said they were disappointed by the majority verdict, adding the case highlighted “a public lack of understanding of the dynamics of abusive relationships and the way in which women in abusive relationships tend to be perceived in the criminal justice system”.
Related Internet Links
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.