Retired lollipop lady, 73, ‘snapped’ and smothered her husband, 81, with a pillow after years of abuse because he smiled at her when she told him about their dire finances

  • Janet Dunn, 73, smothered her husband Anthony Dunn, 81, with a pillow
  • After killing him, she fled their home in Northumberland and attempted suicide
  • Dunn was jailed for five years and three months at Newcastle Crown Court
  • The couple’s daughter Helen was in the house at the time and found his body 

A retired lollipop lady ‘snapped’ and smothered her husband of 53 years after years of abuse because he smiled at her when she told him they were in financial peril.

Janet Dunn, 73, pressed a pillow against 81-year-old husband Anthony’s face in their bedroom, then fled their home in Ponteland, Northumberland, and made a serious attempt to kill herself.

The ‘quiet and shy’ great-grandmother had suffered at the hands of ‘domineering’ Anthony Dunn for years as he subjected her to controlling behaviour.

Dunn was originally charged with murder but prosecutors accepted her guilty plea to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility. She was jailed for five years and three months at Newcastle Crown Court. 

Despite his ‘grandiose’ promises of riches, his reckless business behaviour had left them in danger of losing their home, where their daughter and great grandchildren also lived.

Retired lollipop lady Janet Dunn, 73, snapped and pressed a pillow against 81-year-old husband Anthony’s face in their bedroom, then fled their home in Ponteland, Northumberland, and made a serious attempt to kill herself

Despite his ‘grandiose’ promises of riches, his reckless business behaviour had left the couple – pictured above after Mrs Dunn made a donation to the Labour Party – in danger of losing their home, where their daughter and great grandchildren also lived

While their daughter Helen Telford was in the house, Dunn reacted to her husband’s smile by holding a pillow over his face until he stopped breathing in their bedroom on March 15. 

She then told Helen she was popping to the chemist but instead went to Bolam Lake, in Northumberland, and tried to commit suicide. 

After hours of trying to get hold of her mum, and believing her dad was with her, Helen finally made the grim discovery of Mr Dunn’s body. 

Psychiatrists agreed that, at the time, Dunn was in a depressive episode and anxious, causing her judgment to be substantially impaired.

Peter Glenser QC, prosecuting, said Helen knocked on her parents’ bedroom door and when there was no answer went inside, then discovered her father lying on the bed and ‘it was immediately apparent he was dead.’

Meanwhile at around 5.30pm at Bolam Lake, a dog walker saw Dunn slumped in a Mercedes which had the engine running and there was a strong smell of fumes. 

She had taken tablets and was unconscious and unresponsive and there were remnants of homemade wine in the footwell. 

Psychiatrists agreed that, at the time, Dunn was in a depressive episode and anxious, causing her judgment to be substantially impaired 

Drifting in and out of consciousness, she said: ‘I just want to go and see him. I just want to go. Just let me go.’ 

Referring to her police interview, Mr Glenser said: ‘She said he (Mr Dunn) had not been violent but had been verbally abusive such that she was treading on eggshells most of the time. 

‘It was worse at the start of their relationship. She said he had a quick temper and liked to be in control of everything. 

‘She said he lied about money and that made her anxious. She said he had a heart attack in the last year and dementia had set in.’

In the period before the killing, the couple faced having their home of 36 years repossessed.

Judge Paul Sloan, sentencing, said on the morning that she smothered him, it arose that yet again they would have to ask for a loan from a daughter.

He said to Dunn: ‘Throughout the marriage you were the victim of coercive and controlling behaviour by your husband. You were by nature quiet and shy. 

While their daughter Helen Telford was in the house, Dunn reacted to her husband’s smile when she addressed their finances by holding a pillow over his face until he stopped breathing in their bedroom on March 15

The ‘quiet and shy’ great-grandmother had suffered at the hands of ‘domineering’ Anthony Dunn for years as he subjected her to controlling behaviour and smothered him at their Northumberland home (above)

‘He was nine years your senior and he was domineering and exercised control over many aspects of your life.’

Referencing financial struggles, Judge Sloan said: ‘One house was repossessed, there was bankruptcy, bills were unpaid, there were creditors and visits by bailiffs. 

‘You had to borrow money from your own father and daughter which caused considerable shame and embarrassment.

‘Mr Dunn would make grandiose promises such as paying for a daughter’s wedding reception and that he would buy a house for daughter but the promises came to nothing. 

‘You were left constantly worrying about when the next financial crisis would envelope you.’

Judge Sloan said that as Mr Dunn’s health worsened, Dunn was not equipped to deal with matters and there was a real risk the home she shared with her daughter and great-grandchildren would be repossessed and they would be rendered homeless.

He added: ‘After decades of compliance and submission it was the smile that finally caused you to snap. The anger and frustration you had repressed for years boiled over.

‘You placed a pillow over your husband’s face and pressed it down firmly. He tried to pull it away but he was too weak to put up an effective resistance. 

‘You kept pressing the pillow down, maintaining pressure over a sustained period, in your words for a couple of minutes, until he was no longer struggling, until he was dead.’

Janet Dunn appeared at Bedlington Magistrates Court (above) in March charged with murder but admitted manslaughter and was jailed for five years and three months at Newcastle Crown Court

The couple had three daughters and their middle child died last year aged 47, after which Mr Dunn’s health deteriorated.

He had become more dependent on his wife, worrying if she left him alone, the court heard. 

Their two surviving daughters provided victim statements but they were not read out in court.

John Elvidge QC, defending, said: ‘This is an extraordinary case.

‘The facts and the background that have been uncovered are extremely sad and distressing.’

He added: ‘In spite of it all, Mrs Dunn did love her husband.

‘She is desperately sorry for taking his life and for what she has done to their daughters.’

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