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'I Just Flipped': Retired U.K. Man Cleared Of Murder Charge In Wife’s COVID-19 Lockdown Strangling

In early 2020, Anthony Williams became obsessed with news coverage surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, his family said. He later confessed to strangling his wife of 46 years in their home.

By Dorian Geiger

A retired factory worker in Wales who admitted to fatally strangling his wife during the first COVID-19 lockdown last year won’t face murder charges in her death, a jury decided this week.

Anthony Williams, 70, admitted to choking his wife, Ruth Williams, to death in the bedroom of their home in the town of Cwmbran on March 28, 2020. 

Confessing to the strangulation, he said that the solitary lifestyle brought on by coronavirus pandemic lockdown was “really, really difficult,” according to a BBC report. He reportedly had insomnia and anxiety, both of which were apparently triggered by the U.K.’s lockdown restrictions.

"I just flipped because I hadn't slept,” he allegedly told investigators, according to the BBC. “I started screaming and strangling her."

Ruth Anthony Williams Pd

He also complained of fears, such as running out of money, as he didn’t have physical access to his bank branch while businesses were shuttered, according to the BBC report. Williams also said he “regretted” his wife’s death in transcripts read in a Swansea court. 

"I don't know why, my wife was trying to make me stop,” he added. “But I didn't. I then thought, what have I done, and I regretted it, so I went next door for help and called an ambulance."

A jury at Swansea crown court unanimously found Williams not guilty of murder on Monday, according to The Guardian. He had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Psychiatric experts who appeared in court were split on a preliminary mental diagnosis for Williams.

Dr. Alison Witts testified that the United Kingdom’s countrywide lockdown “heightened” the man’s anxiety, while a separate doctor said he was less persuaded, arguing that Williams had no previous documented history of depression.

“[He] knew what he was doing at the time,” Dr. Damian Gamble told the court.

The couple was reportedly married for 46 years. Anthony Williams said that he had adjusted “not very well” to retirement in the year and a half prior, according to transcripts read in court, noting he and his wife “didn’t have much of a social life.” Ruth Williams, a former supermarket worker, was “happy” since retiring nearly half a decade earlier, he said. 

Emma Williams, the couple’s 40-year-old daughter, described her father in court testimony as a “gentle giant” who “wouldn’t hurt a fly.” However, she recalled that in January 2020, as coronavirus coverage began to dominate the news cycle, her father began acting erratically. 

“I said, ‘You’re just overthinking things,’” she told the court. “‘You’re just watching the news all the time and getting worried with Covid and your mind is just spiraling.’”

Her father once told her that “no one’s ever leaving the house again,” she said. 

Williams is expected to be sentenced on Thursday.

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