Anna Moore for The Guardian writes:
Sentencing Sally to life imprisonment, Judge Christopher Critchlow told her that she had been “eaten up with jealousy” at Richard’s “friendships” with other women. “You are somebody who killed the only man you loved,” he said, “and you will have to live with knowing what you did.”
Now, the case is making headlines again – and events have been cast in a different light. In March this year, Sally Challen won leave to appeal against her conviction, on the grounds that she’d suffered “coercive and controlling behaviour” from her husband – something that did not become a criminal offence until four years after her trial, under the 2015 Serious Crime Act. A date for the appeal is expected later this autumn.
Sally Challen’s case is a new challenge, the first of its kind. She was not subject to sustained, persistent physical violence. There are no broken bones or hospital visits for Wistrich to draw on. Instead, she has numerous witness statements taken in 2010, but not used in court; emails from Richard to Sally; and months of prison visits and video calls with Sally herself. With this, Wistrich hopes to show that, for 30 years, Richard’s behaviour pushed his wife to the brink. “Here is a woman who absolutely adored her husband – a very old-fashioned housewife who had never committed an act of violence or criminal offence,” Wistrich says.
“From the outside, it’s such a bizarre thing to happen. It’s only when you look at their whole marriage and understand coercive control that the picture starts making sense.”
Is it enough to explain a murderous hammer attack? The Challens’ two sons, David, now 30, and James, 34, believe so. Neighbours, friends and family – as well as Richard’s family and his oldest friend – are all behind the appeal. “That’s pretty unprecedented,” Wistrich says. “Usually in these cases – and I’ve done a lot – you’ve got the family gunning for the woman, saying: ‘She’s killed him, she deserves to rot in jail.’ This time, no one has come out in support of Richard.”