'Murdered' Sandwell mother could have killed herself, court told

An alleged murder victim could have killed herself, a pathologist has told Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Tina Billingham, inset, and police outside the doctor's surgery
Tina Billingham, inset, and police outside the doctor's surgery

Tina Billingham was stabbed through the heart and liver with a sword stick while in a van with her partner Ronald Cooke and was certified dead soon afterwards, the jury heard.

He drove the gravely injured 54-year-old to her doctor's surgery at Rowley Healthcare in Hawes Lane, Rowley Regis and told staff the wounds were self inflicted.

Prosecutor Miss Rachel Brand QC maintained: "This was a lie and, as she lay dying, he was hoping to escape the consequences of what he had done."

Dr Nicholas Hunt, who carried out a post mortem examination of the deceased, said the pathological facts of the case did not allow him to rule out the injuries being caused by the victim.

He agreed when Mr Jonas Hankin QC, defending, suggested this was a 'realistic possibility.'

Dr Hunt added it was also possible she was stabbed by somebody else and denied her absence of defence injuries made it more likely the fatal blows were delivered by Miss Billingham.

Neither would have been immediately fatal or sufficiently debilitating to prevent both being self inflicted, the jury heard.

Mr Hankin said the victim, who had lived with Cooke at Granville Road, Old Hill for around 15 years, had a long history of depression and had taken an overdose three times in the past. He alleged: "This woman had attempted to take her own life on more than one occasion."

Cooke - said to have a 'fascination' with bladed articles - kept a sword stick in his van and admitted the couple had argued the day she died.

He claimed to have put the weapon on a seat of the van and said 'go on then' after she announced: 'If I had a knife I would kill myself.' The defendant alleged she stabbed herself before he could stop her.

Members of Miss Billingham's family claimed he was short tempered, controlling and had allegedly left her battered and bruised on more than one occasion.

It was said she had a lot to look forward to when tragedy struck on February 6. Her sister Mandy Collins told the court: "There was no hint of her harming herself. She wouldn't have done that."

Cooke denies murdering his partner and the trial continues.

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