Isabelle Potterton tells court she thought parents’ row shortly before stabbing was ‘just another bicker’
The daughter of a woman who stabbed her allegedly abusive husband to death has recalled seeing him hold a knife to her mother’s throat in a series of violent episodes more than two decades ago.
Penelope Jackson, 66 stabbed her 78-year-old husband David Jackson three times on 13 February shortly after a family dinner to celebrate her birthday, which allegedly saw the couple argue about a lost laptop charger and her decision to serve bubble and squeak.
She claims her husband was violent towards her and coercively controlling.
Their 31-year-old daughter, Isabelle Potterton, told Bristol Crown Court on Monday that she had memories of witnessing her father behave violently towards her mother on three occasions, which took place between 1997 or 1998, when she was a child.
The incidents allegedly occurred when the family were living on a military base in Germany, shortly after the suicide of his son from his first marriage, Gavin Jackson.
In one instance, Ms Potterton said her father got her out of bed and told her to get a mug filled with chocolates, which she had bought the defendant for Mother’s Day, out of its hiding place in an airing cupboard.
He then smashed it in front of her, she said, adding that her father would have known she had bought the gift for her mother “because he would have given me the money”.
On another occasion, Ms Potterton recalled coming home from school and finding her father pushing her mother up against a wall, and her mother with a bloody nose.
“After that my mum packed two suitcases and we went and stayed in a hotel that night, she said we were leaving,” Ms Potterton said. “It was really early in the morning and my mum woke me up and said we are going back home.
“To my understanding it was mum who wanted to go back to being with dad so [they] could work it out.”
On the final occasion, Ms Potterton recalled her father’s two daughters from his first marriage, his daughter-in-law, grandson and mother visiting them in Germany.
“We were all having a barbecue in the garden,” she said. “I can remember mum saying something and everyone jumping up and running into the house.”
A few moments later, she saw her mother against a door on the top floor of the house with her father holding a knife to her throat, she said, alleging that it took three guests to pull him off her mother.
Ms Potterton said she was unable to put the memories in order, but she did not see another occasion when her father was violent towards her mother.
Referring to the suicide of Mr Jackson’s son, prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC asked: “Would it be fair to say it had a profound effect on your dad?”
Ms Potterton replied: “Yes, it broke him”, responding to Mr Quinlan’s suggestion that it was “the worst time of his life” by saying: “Yes, without a doubt.”
She agreed that Mr Jackson had sought counselling to help him cope with his son’s death, and that her parents seemed to be enjoying a happy retirement together.
Ms Potterton also agreed with the suggestion that their family unit had been “a very tight one”, which could be described as “the three of you against the world”, but said that her parents often bickered over small things, with her mother’s temper flaring and quickly passing, while her father had a tendency to “sulk”.
Her mother mentioned leaving her father “sporadically” over the years, but never in any depth, she said.
On the night of his death, Ms Potterton had joined her parents for dinner via videolink to celebrate her mother’s birthday.
Ms Potterton recalled ending the call early because her parents were arguing over who had forgotten to charge their computer, telling the court: “Mum was getting upset and dad was walking out of the room and I just said, ‘let’s leave it there’.”
Ms Potterton added: “I thought, ‘it’s just another bicker, they will be absolutely fine’. I wasn’t upset or anything and we ended it there.”
She called her mother to check on her just after 8pm. She told the court that her mother had said: “I’m absolutely fine, don’t worry, I’ll call you in the morning’.”
Her mother fatally stabbed her father just over an hour later.
Jackson told the court last week that her husband had flown into a rage about her decision to serve bubble and squeak during the dinner, starting a row which she considered “the final straw” in their marriage.
The 66-year-old said she had taken a kitchen knife to her bedroom intending to use it to take her own life, but became embroiled in a confrontation with her husband.
“He said, ‘come on then’. It was like I just lost it and I didn’t know why I did it,” Jackson told the court. “I have not been violent in my life, I never even smacked children.”
The jury is due to retire to consider its verdict later this week.
Additional reporting by PA