A man accused of killing his partner who died hours after he assaulted her was cleared on Tuesday of her manslaughter as medical experts were unable to prove a direct link between the assault and her death.
Lincoln Crown Court was told that Julio Jesus attacked Daniela Espirito Santo during an argument at the small flat they shared in Chestnut Grove, Grantham.
Jesus climbed on top of her and put his forearm across her throat making it difficult for her to breathe.
After a few seconds he released her and she told him to leave the flat but as he did so, he pushed the front door against her, trapping her.
Jesus then left but was arrested nearby after Ms Santo contacted police. Police said he was interviewed and bailed with conditions not to contact the victim in any way and not to attend her address.
Miss Santo, 23, who was shielding because of her health problems, was found dead later the same day.
Police said just after 11.20pm a 999 call was received from Ms Santo reporting Jesus had returned to the address and assaulted her again. After forcing entry to her home, police found her body.
Following a police investigation Jesus was charged with manslaughter but on Tuesday, March 23 the prosecution offered no evidence on that charge.
Jesus, 31, of Beechcroft Road, Grantham, admitted a charge of assault occasioning bodily harm arising from the original incident on the morning of April 8, 2020.
He also admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm as a result of a previous incident on March 28, 2020.
He was jailed for 10 months which is expected to lead to his release from custody where he has been held on remand since April last year.
Judge John Pini QC, passing sentence, said: “This has been a very difficult case from a legal perspective. It is also, on any view, a desperately, desperately sad case in which Miss Santo ultimately lost her life. That means two children have been left without a mother.
“The case has been considered with the utmost care by the prosecution and the defence. The fact is that there are insurmountable legal reasons why a prosecution for manslaughter could not be pursued.
“From a number of reports, it became clear that it is unlikely that there is a direct contribution of the physical injury caused to Ms Santo on April 8 played any part in her death.”
Gareth Weetman, prosecuting, said: “For several months both the prosecution and the defence were investigating the cardiology evidence from two experts as to the circumstances in which Ms Santos died a short time after she had contacted the police in this case.
“Because of that agreed evidence the Crown could not prove that any unlawful act by Mr Jesus caused the death of Ms Santo.”
Mr Weetman said that police became involved after Ms Santo called them just before 10am on April 8, 2020 to report that she had been assaulted by Jesus.
“Police attended that morning and took a full statement from Ms Santo.
“She explained they had a verbal argument and it developed from there. He was lying in bed. He threw a plastic toy towards her which hit her on the leg. She threw it back towards him.”
As a result, Jesus got out of bed and attacked Ms Santo. He threw her onto the bed, climbed on top of her and put his forearm across her throat making it difficult for her to breathe.
She told him to leave and he opened the front door as if to exit the flat only to push the door against her, trapping her.
Miss Santo contacted police and then used her mobile phone to photograph her injuries which included reddening around her neck and upper arm together with a small indentation on her wrist.
Mr Weetman said: “She told the police he had started to physically abuse her during verbal altercations and the last couple of occasions involved him throwing her onto the bed, climbing on top of her and putting his arm around her neck.”
She went on to describe a similar incident on March 28 when she said she had feared for her life.
Allison Summers QC, for Jesus, told the court that he had no previous convictions.
“The assaults were committed at a time when both he and Ms Santos were clearly under enormous strain.
“Ms Santos’ medical problems meant that she was required to completely shield in a small flat with two very young children. Mr Jesus had lost his job and money was tight. When he lost his job, money became a particular source of tension.
“Whilst none of those factors provide any justification or excuse for what he did they set the scene for the obvious flashpoints which on these two occasions turned into violence.
“This is clearly a case of spontaneous rather than premeditated violence.”
Lincolnshire Police completed a detailed and extensive investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of Daniela.
Detective Inspector Andy McWatt, Senior Investigating Officer, East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Daniela as they continue to live their lives without her.
“Daniela’s death will now be subject to an inquest and we will pass our file onto the coroner.”
Meanwhile, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) previously launched an investigation into Lincolnshire Police’s response to a number of domestic incidents reported by the mother-of-two before her body was later found at an address in Grantham.
An IOPC spokesperson said on Tuesday: “We have completed our independent investigation into Lincolnshire Police’s response to a number of domestic incidents reported by Miss Daniela Espirito Santo prior to her death.
“We are in the course of liaising with Ms Santo’s family and Lincolnshire Police. We do not expect to be in a position to issue our findings publicly until the conclusion of future inquest proceedings.”