A young mother who killed her partner with a single stab wound to the heart was today (Thursday) jailed for nine years.
Mum-of-two Charlie Stevenson, 21, was cleared of murdering her on-off partner Christopher Higgs, also 21, after a trial last month.
But the jury convicted Stevenson of unlawfully killing Mr Higgs at her home in Portland Street, Boston, Lincolnshire.
The jury heard Stevenson had been in a long term “on-off” relationship with Mr Higgs, who was living in Spalding, and they had a baby in June 2020.
Both had a troubled upbringing with Stevenson, who suffered from an unstable personality disorder, being taken into care at the age of four, and Mr Higgs at the age of 12.
Passing sentence at Lincoln Crown Court, Judge Simon Hirst made it clear no sentence could put a value on Christopher’s life.
Judge Hirst said he had concluded from the evidence that both Stevenson and Mr Higgs were both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
On this occasion Judge Hirst told Stevenson he was satisfied that she was being attacked by Mr Higgs, but it was not significantly different from the arguments had gone before.
“Your relationship was characterised by quarrels and fights,” the judge told Stevenson.
The judge said it may well have been that there was a physical argument in the kitchen.
But Judge Hirst told Stevenson: “What you did was to pick up a knife and then to use that knife to stab Mr Higgs once.”
Judge Hirst said the child was in the front room at the time of stabbing, but it was inevitable he would have heard something, and Mr Higgs then staggered into the room from the kitchen where he collapsed.
The judge added that Stevenson went on to lie to both the 999 operator and police who arrived at the scene.
“Everything about the incident demonstrates you were in control, rather than out of control,” Judge Hirst explained.
Before sentence was passed, Mr Higgs mother, Jody Manchester, read out a moving victim impact statement in court.
A number of Mr Higgs relatives watched from the public gallery wearing red t-shirts with the words “Higgsy 99” printed on the back.
Ms Manchester described the death of her son as a “world changing event” which had devastated the family and his older brother.
“He was still my child. I have heard the 999 call of his last moments on earth,” Ms Manchester said.
Ms Manchester added that she had sat in court every day and still didn’t know how her son had died because of the different accounts given by Charlie Stevenson.
She added that Christopher had always wanted his son to play football for Arsenal.
Ms Manchester finished her statement by saying: “I still can’t believe Charlie Stevenson has taken my boy from me.”
A statement was also read out from Mr Higgs father, Wayne Higgs.
He said: “He should have been burying me, we should not have been burying Christopher.”
Mr Higgs added: “People argue all the time, but you don’t pick up a knife.
“It has broken the whole family. I just wish Christopher had listened to me. I told him Charlie was no good.”
The prosecution had alleged that Mr Higgs died from a single stab wound to the heart which was deliberately inflicted by Stevenson on July 14 last year.
Christopher Donnellan QC, prosecuting, claimed Stevenson gave a variety of different accounts of what happened to save her own skin and to keep custody of the couple’s young son.
Mr Donnellan said: “The prosecution case is that the blow was deliberately inflicted, it was not an accident, it wasn’t done in self defence, or because of a mental health issue or a personality disorder.”
The court heard Stevenson had a number of previous convictions, including damaging property and robbery.
At the time of his death Mr Higgs was under bail conditions to live with his brother in Spalding after police were called to an incident at Portland Street on May 30.
Giving evidence during her trial, Stevenson claimed Mr Higgs pulled the knife towards himself after she picked it up to scare him when he tried to strangle her.
Stevenson told the jury she had needed to pick up a knife to scare Mr Higgs on one previous occasion.
But Mr Donnellan said while there may have been an argument in the kitchen, it was not of the level for Stevenson to pick up a knife and stab Mr Higgs.
Mr Donnellan argued it was also an aggravating feature that Mr Higgs collapsed in front of his baby son after he staggered from the kitchen to the front room.
A police officer who arrived at the scene found Stevenson holding the child which had blood on its clothing.
But the prosecution admitted there was no evidence of premeditation.
“This was an explosive sudden act,” Mr Donnellan added.
The jury heard Stevenson rang 999 and stayed at the property until paramedics and police arrived.
In her 999 call to the ambulance service Ms Stevenson said Mr Higgs had slipped and fallen on the knife.
She also told a police officer who arrived at the scene that Mr Higgs had stabbed himself.
The jury heard there was also a history of Stevenson being assaulted by Mr Higgs.
CCTV from a bed & breakfast where Stevenson and Mr Higgs were staying during a temporary placement in May 2019 was shown to the jury.
During the footage Mr Higgs could be seen putting a hand around Stevenson’s neck and snatching a phone from another resident who was ringing the police.
James Newton-Price QC, mitigating for Stevenson, said the jury’s verdict meant there was no intention to kill or cause serious harm to Mr Higgs.
Mr Newton-Price reminded the judge that a neighbour did hear a woman screaming the night before the incident, while another heard arguing on the day itself.
He argued a reasonable person would conclude on balance that most of the domestic violence in the relationship came from Mr Higgs to Ms Stevenson.
“At least initially the picking up of the knife could have been a defensive act,” Mr Newton-Price added.
“She was properly and genuinely remorseful at the time and afterwards.
“There was a lack of premeditation. It arose wholly unexpectedly.”
Mr Newton-Price said many of Stevenson’s convictions were also from when she was very young and in care.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Myszczyszyn from East Midlands Special Operations Unit, who led the investigation, said: “I can only hope that this sentence brings some level of comfort and closure to Christopher’s friends and family. My heartfelt condolences go out to them at this difficult time.
“As evidenced by this tragic case, knife crime can have devastating consequences. Lincolnshire Police are committed to keeping the county safe and will continue to tackle the issue of knife crime in the county as a priority through Operation Raptor.”