A FORMER councillor has been given a 20 year jail term for trying to murder his wife in a brutal attack said to be motivated by fears she might leave him.

Joseph O’Riordan, 74, stabbed Amanda O’Riordan, 47, eight times in their bedroom last year, weeks after learning of her short-lived affair with a postman.

Sentencing him yesterday at Brighton Crown Court, Judge Shani Barnes said: “I believe you used your full strength and determination to try and kill Amanda O’Riordan. And I believe you did that because you could not contemplate her leaving you.”

The court heard Mr O’Riordan, who was a serving independent Polegate town councillor at the time of the attack, had tried to get his son to remove potentially incriminating evidence.

At the trial, which ended on Tuesday, he admitted wounding his wife but denied attempted murder.

Jurors heard he told his wife “look at what you made me do”, before attacking her and then calling an ambulance.

The pair had been together more than 20 years and married for more than ten, but Mrs O’Riordan felt increasingly unhappy in the relationship and had a brief affair with postman Nicholas Gunn.

Her husband tracked her car and on October 22 told her she was still lying to him, forcing her to stay in the car when she tried to get out.

When they got home, she did not take off her coat as usual and suggested she might go back to her mother’s house to let him cool off.

Judge Shani Barnes said: “When she would not take off her coat and shoes, you knew you could no longer control the situation and she was going to leave and that drastic situation required drastic action, and that is what you took.

“You took the largest knife and with a callous manner you thrust in into your wife. And as you attacked her she screamed and begged you to stop and the only really decent thing you did was when you sapped all your energy you relented and you called 999. I believe you did that to punish her and to stop her from leaving you.”

Mrs O’Riordan told the trial he had never been violent towards her before, although others regarded him as domineering.

His lawyer, Peter Doyle QC, highlighted Mr O’Riordan’s long record of charity and community work and said he had felt distressed on seeing pictures of his wife’s injuries.

But Judge Barnes told him: “I am afraid I don’t see any genuine remorse for what you did. I am surprised to hear you were distressed when you saw the photographs because I can assure you I have watched you every moment of this trial and I saw nothing. I also take into account your attempt to have your son remove evidence you thought would be incriminating against you.”

Mr O’Riordan will serve ten years of his sentence in prison and the rest on licence.


MRS O’Riordan almost lost her life after being stabbed eight times by her husband in October last year.

But as she lay in a hospital bed just days later, she blamed herself for the horrific attack.

The “saintly woman” as described by her husband’s own defence lawyer, spoke from behind a screen during the trial.

When asked about her first thoughts for her husband as she lay in her hospital bed, she said: “I was worried for him. I never ever wanted to hurt him and I knew that it is my fault because I had an affair.”

In police interviews and in court, she stressed how her husband had never hurt her and had been her protector and supporter, even if she started to feel increasingly stifled in the marriage and wanted out.

Sentencing her husband yesterday to 20 years in prison for the attack, Judge Shani Barnes said: “I have never heard a woman who has been treated so badly by her husband speak of him with such love and continued devotion.”

Speaking after the case, Gail Gray, from the domestic abuse charity Rise, stressed that it is never the victim’s fault.

She said: “Many clients say they blame themselves or that they said sorry just to keep the peace.

“The responsibility for abuse is always with the perpetrator but living with a constant barrage of emotional abuse can make it impossible to think straight or see clearly.”

After a trial in which Mrs O’Riordan’s marriage and brief affair with a postman was repeatedly picked over, the court was yesterday reminded of the terrible impact of the attack on her life.

Addressing Mr O’Riordan, listening as he had throughout the trial on a hearing loop, Judge Barnes impressed upon him the “absolutely terrible” damage he had done to his wife.

She said: “I have read her victim impact statement, I believe you have as well, and I have seen the terrible physical scars she has been left with that undoubtedly will be with her for many, many years.

“I am also aware, perhaps more than she is really truly aware at present, of the terrible, long lasting psychological trauma that you have left her with.”

The 47-year-old had to be cared for by her elderly, ill mother when she came out of hospital, helpless after the stabbing she was lucky to survive.

Judge Barnes spoke of the victim’s ongoing nightmares, adding: “She always wakes up screaming, trying to fight you off - that will stay with her unfortunately.”

She continued: “Her fear of being in her own home, whether she will ever work again [...] she is now terrified in her own kitchen of preparing food. If you can for a moment imagine how every time she tries to handle a knife these memories come back to her.

“The damage you have done to her is absolutely terrible.”

Mr O’Riordan chose not to give evidence at the trial, a position jurors were told they were entitled to count against him if they considered the prosecution’s case to be so strong that it required an answer.

At one point while his wife was giving evidence, he stood up to tell the judge that he could not hear what she was “saying to my wife”, causing her to break down in the stand.

Jurors also did not hear directly from Nicholas Gunn, the postman who Mrs O’Riordan would visit in Highlands Road, Portslade, and who she said helped her feel “more me” amid her stifling marriage.

She had confided in her mother about her unhappiness and had told Mr O’Riordan she wanted to leave him, but he had threatened to kill himself.

At one point he had suggested the only “way out” might be to kill himself and then her, but she had discounted his comment as not being serious. Judge Barnes said: “I believe that you contemplated killing her and then yourself[...] “I don’t believe you simply lost control and grabbed the nearest implement. I believe there was some planning, if not long-term planning, to what you did.”

Handing him an indefinite restraining order forbidding him to contact Mrs O’Riordan either directly or indirectly, she added: “I accept all of the references that have been sent, speaking about the part of you that is honourable and decent.

“But then most of us are not all good and not all bad and in the best of us there is a little darkness and in the worst of us much good.”

Speaking after the case, DCI Mike Aschcroft said he was pleased at the sentence, adding of Mrs O’Riordan: “She has not only horrific physical scars from the attack but psychological and emotional wounds too that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life.

“She has shown great strength of character in giving evidence in court.”


Opinion by Gail Gray of RISE

Domestic abuse is about coercion and control, when an abuser feels they are losing control the situation can escalate.

A survivor is most at risk of death or serious injury at the point of leaving or up to two years of leaving. People sometimes ask “why doesn’t she just leave?”.

The answer is often they feel too frightened to leave. In the UK two women every week are killed by a partner or ex-partner - the risk is real. The lead up to this tragic event will echo with other domestic abuse survivors.

Many clients say they blame themselves or that they said sorry just to keep the peace.

The responsibility for abuse is always with the perpetrator but living with a constant barrage of emotional abuse can make it impossible to think straight or see clearly. RISE helps over 1800 people every year to help them live safely, free from domestic abuse.

We encourage anyone who feels unsafe or unsure in their relationship with a partner, ex-partner or family member, to contact us.

Call the helpline, email via our website or just drop in to the Domestic Abuse Surgery at Hove Town Hall every Wednesday morning.

You are not to blame. You are not alone. We can support you.

Call RISE on 01273 622828 or visit riseuk.org.uk.