Woman convicted of murdering her partner for second time after retrial

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A woman who stabbed her partner to death with a steak knife has been convicted of his murder for a second time, after a retrial was ordered by the Court of Appeal.

Emma-Jayne Magson, now 28, of Sylvan Street, Leicester, killed 26-year-old James Knight with a single stab wound to the heart in March 2016 after a drunken row.

She denied murdering Mr Knight at her first trial claiming it was self defence, but was convicted of the killing at Leicester Crown Court in 2016, and given a life sentence with a 17-year minimum term.

Emma-Jayne Magson court case
James Knight once sent a text message to Magson telling her ‘I’m not there for you to get hit’. (Leicestershire Police/PA)

Magson’s application for a retrial was supported by campaign group Justice for Women.

Her second trial took place at Birmingham Crown Court where a jury again found her guilty of Mr Knight’s murder, by a majority verdict of 10-2, on Friday.

Magson’s trials were told that on the night of the killing she and Mr Knight had been out separately, drinking with friends.

They then met at a pub in Leicester city centre at about midnight, and took a taxi home in the early hours of March 27.

Jurors were told the pair then began arguing and the taxi driver asked them to get out of the vehicle.

Magson claimed at her retrial she “hit out” at Mr Knight in the kitchen when he grabbed her by the throat, after she inadvertently picked up a knife from the sink.

Neighbours were woken by an argument with one hearing Knight say “my heart is bleeding” – and noticed blood on his clothing.

Prosecutors said Mr Knight had by then already been stabbed in the chest by Magson – but by her front doorstep – suffering an 11.5cm-deep wound, after she lost her temper as he tried to get inside.

After Mr Knight fell to the ground, the court heard, she hid the knife in a neighbour’s bin.

The victim then managed to get up, making groaning noises, but fell onto his back in the street, while Magson took his heavily-stained T-shirt into the house.

At about 2.30am, Mr Knight was helped back into the house by his brother and another neighbour but they did not realise he had been fatally injured.

Magson used a number of excuses to cover up for the stabbing, telling others Mr Knight was snoring, had been “beaten up by bouncers in town” and was “putting it on” after taking cocaine.

Although some of Magson’s comments at the scene were shouted, others indicated a lack of distress and no urgency in seeking help for Mr Knight.

As Mr Knight lay dying inside the house, Magson went upstairs and changed, only calling an ambulance at about 3am, to claim the victim was still breathing but had taken drugs.

When told there would be a delay in an ambulance arriving, she told the operator: “No, that’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

Magson then waited until 45 minutes after Mr Knight had been carried into the house before running into the street shouting “he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s been fighting with bouncers”.

Only then was another call made to the emergency services, while Magson denied knowing that Knight had been stabbed or that he had been injured.

Pathological evidence showed the injury to Mr Knight, which damaged his heart and left lung, would not have been instantaneously fatal, but he was likely to have died within minutes.

Emma-Jayne Magson court case
Emma-Jayne Magson’s mother Joanne Smith and David Challen outside the Royal Courts of Justice, ahead of Magson’s appeal (Sam Tobin/PA)

Magson misled a police inspector at the scene, failing to mention the stabbing, but later told a relative that Mr Knight had grabbed her by the arms and throat, and she had panicked, grabbed a knife and stabbed him.

During the trial, former bartender Magson was asked about historical incidents where she had been violent, including one in which she had thrown a hoover at a previous partner, earning her the nickname “Mike Dyson”.

Magson denied the incident ever happened and claimed another ex also lied about her stabbing him with a fork.

The one-time care home worker also had two previous convictions for violence from 2012 including one in which she glassed another female, cutting the victim’s face.

Jurors heard there were also incidents of violence towards Mr Knight.

In mid-March that year, Magson said she had an “emotional breakdown”, post-miscarriage, and during an argument with Mr Knight, “ended up kicking out, kicking my legs to his head”.

On March 21, 2016, the couple exchanged text messages in which Magson said “we ain’t good for each other… I am no good for you, take care”.

Mr Knight replied: “That’s cool, I’m not there for you to speak to like shit and hit.”

Magson told jurors the reference to being “hit” was in relation to an incident where she “swung my arm and whacked him on the head”.

In a statement to police a day after the killing, Magson claimed she had been kicked by Mr Knight and believed the kitchen assault would escalate.

Her statement read: “Due to the way he was holding my throat, I could not see what was in the sink.

“I picked up the first thing which came to hand, which was a steak knife with a plastic handle.

“The knife was in my hand and I hit out once. It happened so quickly I cannot be sure exactly how it happened. I didn’t mean to harm him, I just wanted him to get off me.

“I didn’t notice any injury or blood and thought he was drunk.

“I then called 999, but I still thought he was drunk and playing up.”

At her appeal, Magson’s lawyers claimed emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) and a pervasive development disorder may have impaired her verbal skills, and also affected her ability to quickly form rational judgments and exercise self-control.

As the verdict was read by the Birmingham jury’s foreman, Magson, wearing a pink top and dark trousers, stood with her hands clasped together, covering the lower part of her face.

Afterwards, she swayed momentarily before sitting back down with her shoulders slumped forward.

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told her she would be sentenced at the same court on March 29.

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