Murderer had bullied wife for years

PUBLISHED: 17:30 13 January 2012

Julia Tottle

Julia Tottle

SUBMITTED

THE brother of a woman beaten to death by her husband has told the Mercury his sister suffered years of domestic abuse in silence at the hands of a 'closet bully'.

Stephen Hotson was this week sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife with a vacuum cleaner pipe.

The court heard during the killer’s trial how slight, six-stone Julia Tottle, known as Julie, tried in vain to fight off her attacker at their Crookes Lane home in Kewstoke. She suffered more than 60 separate injuries.

Extracts from Ms Tottle’s personal diary were also read to the jury, detailing years of mental and verbal abuse suffered at the hands of her husband.

Hotson, who admitted manslaughter but denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility, cited depression as a reason for killing his wife.

Ms Tottle had told him prior to her death that she wanted him to leave the marital home and there was no future in their relationship.

A jury convicted Hotson of murder by a majority of 11-1 on Monday.

Following the sentencing, Ms Tottle’s brother Mark told the Mercury he and his family knew nothing of the domestic hell she was going through and wish she had reported ‘just one’ incident. It could have saved her life.

Mr Tottle, a newsagent at Royal Oak Stores in Kewstoke, found his sister’s body at her home last July after she had not been seen in work for several days.

During dramatic scenes, which Mr Tottle describes as like ‘something from Emmerdale’, he found Hotson trying to blow up the cottage next to his business where the couple lived.

Mr Tottle was praised by the police, his family and the crown court judge this week, for his heroic actions going into the property and turning off the gas mains after Hotson had caused a major leak.

He told the Mercury: “That I just take in my stride.

“But every time I walk past the rear window of the cottage, all I can think of is the blood-stained handle of the lounge window.

“I will never forget it, the thought of Julie trying to get away from her killer.

“You’d never put Julie and Steve together. He suffered mood-swings, but was generally a quiet man and never seemed to lose his rag.

“But he was beating my sister and was a closet bully, despite everyone thinking he was quite placid.

“What happened to my sister should never happen to anyone in their lifetime.”

The couple were married in 2006 after dating for seven years, but evidence read in court showed that Hotson abused his wife for several years before he murdered her.

Isobel Gray, a colleague at Green Pastures vets in Weston where Julia worked, told the court last week about a time when her colleague was grabbed with both hands around the neck during an argument with Hotson.

Following the sentencing on Monday Ms Tottle’s sister Sally read a family statement telling of the trauma she, brother Mark and mother Audrey have been through since the death of her sister. She said on the steps of Bristol Crown Court: “My family has been traumatised by my sister’s brutal and horrific death.

“She was a sensitive and caring person.

“We are satisfied with the verdict. Julia will be deeply missed and we hope by speaking out we may be able to help others in abusive relationships.”

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