Jury acquits woman of murdering Bristol grandfather
AN ALCOHOLIC who fatally stabbed her partner has been cleared of both murder and manslaughter.
Sharon Hodges told a jury she acted in self-defence when grandfather-of-six Philip Gibbs came "raging" at her with a knife in the caravan they shared.
Miss Hodges said she was on the phone to a man she had been out drinking with when Mr Gibbs came at her and threatened her with a blade, telling her: "You'll never see your kids again."
She said she had grabbed a blade from a knife block and stepped towards him to make him back off, but he did not and the knife entered his body.
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Giving evidence in her own defence, the 41-year-old told the court: "I thought he had snapped and gone mad. I decided to go for a knife, purely in a self-defence action. I didn't intend to kill him, not for one minute."
Miss Hodges denied murdering Mr Gibbs in November last year.
A jury at Bristol Crown Court took six hours to unanimously find her not guilty of both murder and an alternative count of manslaughter yesterday.
Miss Hodges, looking pale, clasped her hands together as the acquittals were returned by the jury foreman.
The court was told Miss Hodges was in a "volatile" relationship with 58-year-old Mr Gibbs for three or four years and by November 19 last year they were not getting on. After Miss Hodges spent the evening drinking with friend Mark White she returned to the caravan she and Mr Gibbs shared at Sand Bay caravan park, near Kewstoke, Weston-super-Mare.
The prosecution claimed Miss Hodges stabbed Mr Gibbs to death after an argument and slashed herself to make it look like self-defence.
But she told the jury that Mr Gibbs had threatened to "mess her up" and picked up a knife, cutting her right wrist. She said she had grabbed a knife herself and the two stood face to face with the blades.
Miss Hodges said Mr Gibbs had "lunged" at her and she moved forwards to try to make him back off.
She said: "He goaded me and said 'You haven't got the guts'."
Miss Hodges said she took a second step forwards, thinking Mr Gibbs was going to stab her in the chest.
She told the court: "He put his hand on his stomach, made a funny noise and walked out of the caravan."
Miss Hodges told the jury that at the time she had no idea he was fatally wounded.
After the verdict relatives of Mr Gibbs, who were in the public gallery, were upset.
His stepson Jamie Horsman said: "He's not here to defend himself."
Mr Gibbs' relatives said he was a good, kind-hearted man who loved Miss Hodges.
Born in St Paul's, he was brought up in Knowle and attended Connaught Primary School in Melvin Square and then Connaught Senior Boys' School. He left school aged 16 and joined the Army, serving in Northern Ireland and Germany.
When Mr Gibbs married his second wife, Sandra, in March 1987, he became step-father to her sons, Jamie and Stephen Horsman.
Jamie, 34, a dry-liner from Knowle, said: "Phil took us on. Any bloke can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad – and he was absolutely amazing."
It was after Mr Gibbs' second wife died in 2003 that he met Sharon Hodges. The jury heard lorry driver Mr Gibbs gave Miss Hodges money to set up a pet shop in Bristol, which failed, bought her a BMW car and also funded a sweet shop in Leinster Avenue, Knowle West, which Miss Hodges was due to open two days after he died.
Mr Gibbs' niece Sarah Gibbs, 32, a care worker from Whitchurch, said he was "loving, kind and generous".
Mr Gibbs had four sisters – June, Janet, Carole and Linda – and a brother, Tony. He had six grandchildren – Katy, Lewis, Paige, Tommy, Frankie-Rose and Zac – as well as 11 nieces and three nephews.
He had been working as a lorry driver for Brakes in Yate.
His sister Carole said: "He was a wonderful, loving older brother. He was extremely hardworking and had hardly ever been out of work in his life. He was a great father to his stepsons and will be very dearly missed."