01/02/2013 12:27 GMT | Updated 03/04/2013 06:12 BST

'Depressed' Frederick Gilliard, 76, Jailed For Killing Wife Of 54 Years With Garden Gnome

A former RAF sergeant who bludgeoned his wife to death with a garden gnome before stabbing her repeatedly was today jailed for four years.

Frederick Gilliard, 76, told officers he "just lost it" after having a blazing row with Josephine, his wife of 54 years.

Gilliard was suffering from a "depressive episode" at the time of the attack, Preston Crown Court heard.

The couple were a decent, hard working couple who raised four children and had three grandchildren, the court heard.

Mr Gilliard had also served in the RAF for 27 years including seeing active service during the conflict in Aden.

Members of his family wept in the public gallery as he was jailed.

His depression and rows tipped him over the edge and on February 5 2012 he used a garden gnome, in the shape of an Easter Island monolith, and an eight inch carving knife, to kill his wife, the court heard.

Mrs Gilliard, 74, who was attacked in their bedroom, suffered "catastrophic" head injuries and ten stab wounds of "considerable force" to her neck, chest and stomach.

He then dialled 999 telling the operator "I just lost it" summoning police to the family home on Links Road in Blackpool, Lancs where his wife lay dead.

When officers arrived he said: "I can't believe it. This is going to kill my kids. We have been married 54 years. I loved that woman."

Gilliard was originally charged with murder but at an earlier hearing pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to his depression.

Passing sentence Judge Anthony Russell QC, Recorder of Preston, told the defendant: "This is a terrible tragedy which has affected all of your family and you, and must have inflicted considerable emotional damage which can never be repaired."

Frail Gilliard, who walks with a stoop and wears glasses and hearing aids in both ears, could not hear proceedings and looked over to his family in the public gallery who held up four fingers to indicate the sentence.

Earlier Stuart Denney, prosecuting, told the court Gilliard had suffered from depression a number of years earlier but had stopped taking tablets prescribed by doctors.

He said Gilliard had got the gnome, designed to look like an Easter Island statue, from the garden and the knife from the kitchen before going upstairs to attack his wife in the bedroom as she lay on the bed.

He added: "It was clearly a prolonged and violent attack.

"During the 999 call the defendant told the operator he had just killed his wife, smashed her head in and stabbed her following a blazing row. He just lost it."

Mr Denney said the psychiatrists who assessed the defendant "were of one voice" that he had suffered a depressive episode.

Andrew O'Byrne, mitigating, added: "Just under a year ago a relationship that had endured in excess of 50 years between this defendant and his wife came to an abrupt and violent end.

"Unfortunately it has become obvious this defendant has been suffering with a moderate depressive illness and that, combined with other factors, led him to the events of February 5 last year."

Outside court detective superintendent Ian Critchley, who led the investigation for Lancashire Police, said: "This was a tragic crime which has left a whole family devastated by their loss.

"Our thoughts are with the Gilliard family at this difficult time."