Jail for woman who beat abusive husband to death with a stick

An elderly woman who clubbed her abusive partly-paralysed husband to death with the same stick he threw at her has been jailed for more than two years.

Packiam Ramanathan, 73, struck her 76-year-old spouse Kanagusabi Ramanathan at least five times at the home they shared in Burges Road, East Ham, east London, on 21 September.

The Old Bailey heard she took care of all the household chores, cooking, tidying and cleaning up after her husband when he could not do it himself.

When his health improved, his treatment of her got worse, jurors were told.

Mrs Ramanathan’s husband threatened to take her back to Sri Lanka and plant drugs on her to get her arrested.

He also drafted a ‘hurtful and worrying’ letter to be sent to their homeland hoping to have her brother arrested and ‘treated badly’ so he could take control of their family home.

She also described how she finally discovered he was previously married and had fathered three children with another wife in March last year.

The final straw came amid an argument about cleaning the toilet, during which Mr Ramanathan threw the stick at his wife that she would pick up and batter him with as he lay in bed.

Paramedics found the victim, who suffered from blood cancer and used a wheelchair to aid his mobility, lying dead in one of the bedrooms.

A post mortem found he died of multiple head and neck injuries.

His arm was also broken, and he had a number of other defensive injuries to his arms and hands.

A blood-stained long wooden stick was found in the hall cupboard, the Old Bailey heard.

Mrs Ramanathan admitted killing her husband during the trial but claimed she only did so after suffering through the decades of bullying and abuse at his hands.

Her barrister, Stephen Kamlish QC, said Mrs Ramanathan was ‘a properly abused slave’ who ‘snapped’ after being made to feel ‘invisible’ by her abusive partner.

‘To say she is a good person is an understatement,’ he said, reading from a character reference which described Mrs Ramanathan as ‘a wonderful person’ who ‘would never dream of harming anyone’.

She was cleared of murder after just half an hour and Judge Anuja Dhir QC today (fri) jailed her for two years and four months.

With time served on remand she will likely be freed in months.

‘You were married to Kanagusabi Ramanathan for 37 years,’ the judge said.

‘The marriage took place in Sri Lanka where you were born. From Sri Lanka you both moved to Germany and then on to London.

‘It was not a happy marriage.

‘Given all of the evidence I have heard in the case I am satisfied that from the outset of that marriage until about 2007 you were abused physically, sexually and mentally.

‘You told the jury that from 2007 the physical and sexual violence stopped, but the verbal abuse, false allegations of infidelity, the foul language as well as the coercive and controlling behaviour continued.

‘That evidence was supported by witnesses called by the prosecution, for example your landlord who had known you both for seven years and the GP who had known you both for 11 years described Kanagusabi Ramanathan as an aggressive, difficult man who was a control freak.

‘If he didn’t get what he wanted he would complain to people in authority.

‘Those witnesses went further; they said that the complaints made were often embellished and contained lies.

‘Their evidence was supported by letters drafted by Kanagusabi Ramanathan found on his computer.

‘Some of those letters were for minor complaints, others were more serious and some – in particular the one about your brother in Sri Lanka – were sinister.

‘Many prosecution witnesses agreed with the suggestion made by your advocate that you were treated like a slave.

‘Some of them spoke of the verbal abuse and the filthy language you endured. They said that your response was to cry and to keep quiet.

‘They spoke of the constant and hurtful taunts and accusations made about affairs with other men and some of those humiliating comments bordered on the ridiculous – such as the accusation repeatedly of having an affair with a fishmonger, a man in his 30s who on one occasion when buying fish called you “darling”.

‘They spoke of the controlling behaviour of Kanagusabi Ramanathan.

‘You were not allowed to speak to men, you were not allowed to speak to people on the phone or have a phone of your own.

‘You were given less money than you needed to shop for basic essentials, and you were not allowed to have a social life.’

Mr Kamlish had pleaded for a sentence that would allow for her immediate release, telling the court: ‘She had suffered enough.’

‘This elderly lady has been in a real prison for 36 years of living with her husband,’ he said.

‘She led a solitary life, with the principle comfort being her animals.

‘After that she has been tried for a murder she did not commit, which she admitted from the outset because of loss of control and now that it is over she now has to face a battle to remain in this country.

‘So it goes on as she gets into her mid-70s.’

Mr Kamlish told the court Mrs Ramanathan had been ‘brought to Germany by her husband’ and did not choose to become a citizen there.

He said she was not a Sri Lankan citizen and is scared at the prospect of returning there following the publicity of the killing.

She was 37, when she was married off to her husband after her parents died.

By August 1983 Sri Lanka was being torn apart by a bloody civil war which saw 500,000 people displaced.

The Ramanathans fled the country as refugees to Bavaria, Germany, in 1985, and lived in a camp for two years.

It was in these two years, while Mr Ramanathan worked in a factory and as a security guard at a German Army base, that the abuse began, the court heard.

He would return to her drunk and begin to ask about her former sexual partners which she denied having.

Once, he became so drunk he hurled a paperweight at her leaving a scar on her forehead to this day.

In 2005, when the couple went back to Sri Lanka, Mrs Ramanathan refused to return to Germany with her husband and stayed with her family for two years.

The couple reunited in 2007 and moved to the flat in East Ham where the husband was to die.

When they returned to Sri Lanka in 2012 Mrs Ramanathan again refused to accompany her husband back and spent another two years there.

After coming to England in 2014, she visited her homeland again the following year and had only been living with her husband for six months having been summoned back after almost three years.

‘This case is a textbook case of snapping, finally, after having the fortitude not to snap over such a long time,’ Mr Kamlish told jurors.

He said Mrs Ramanathan ‘had a bit more peace’ during her spells in Sri Lanka.

‘When she got back in 2018 she was subjected every single day to the abuse and the words and the accusations about f**king other young men,’ said Mr Kamlish.

‘She’s 73, but he had a campaign against her to make her life hell.’

Ramanathan, of Burges Road, East Ham, east London, was jailed for two years and four months.

She will likely be freed within months due to the time she has already spent on remand.

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