Killer jailed for five-and-a-half years for manslaughter for pushing his girlfriend Rebecca Simpson down the stairs then lying to police
A judge told a dad he had caused "emotional anguish" to his girlfriend's family by lying to police after he killed her by pushing her down a flight of stairs.
Ricky Knott was jailed for five-and-a-half years today pleading guilty to manslaughter over the death of Rebecca Simpson.
Knott admitted to pushing Miss Simpson during a drunken argument at her home on Smawthorne Grove, Castleford, in the early house of August 26 last year.
After the incident Knott claimed his partner had died as a result of a "tragic accident" and denied attacking her.
The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the third day of his trial, claiming he had pushed her against a wall at the top of the stairs but did not intend to cause serious injury.
Knott lied to police in the aftermath of his partner's death, claiming she had taken cocaine during their night out.
Toxicology tests found no trace of the drug in her system.
Sentencing Knott, Mr Justice Jay said: "What exactly happened that evening only you can know, because there were no witnesses and the expert evidence and the inferences to be drawn from all the material in the case cannot lead to any definitive conclusions.
"But what is clear is that Rebecca was found unconscious at the bottom of a flight of stairs, quite steep stairs in my estimation, face up and
with her head pointing towards the front door.
"She had sustained fatal skull fractures caused by a severe impact at or near to the bottom of the stairs."
The judge said expert evidence could not prove Miss Simpson had been pushed down the stairs.
The court heard there was no evidence to suggest that there was violence between the couple before they went upstairs.
Knott described "bickering" with Miss Simpson as they went up the stairs to bed.
The judge continued: "You accept that you pushed Rebecca when she was on the small landing at the top of the stairs and you were slightly above her, having climbed the small step leading towards the bedroom.
"You pushed her against the wall; Rebecca then stumbled to her right and fell down the stairs.
"The force of your push was sufficient, to use your wording, to propel her against the wall.
"It was also sufficient to cause her to stumble, and whether Rebecca’s weak right knee was a factor in the causation of her ultimate fall must be a matter of speculation.
"I accept that you did attempt to assist Rebecca after her fall at which stage she was effectively lifeless. It is probable that you were aware that what you had done had resulted in this tragedy.
"I also accept that all of Rebecca’s injuries were sustained when she was falling down the stairs and at the bottom of the stairway.
"It is also relevant, in my judgement, that you were acting in this way when Rebecca was on the small landing at the top of the stairs, that stairway representing an obvious source of danger.
"As you say in your letter to me, it was your recklessness which caused this tragic accident. I accept your use of the word ‘accident’ in the sense in which you mean it."
The judge said he had taken into account the impact the tragedy had had on on Miss Simpson's family when imposing sentence.
He said: "I have read the Victim Personal Statement of Rebecca’s mother, Clare Simpson, and have well in mind the effect her death has had on the whole family, including of course Rebecca’s son, Braxton.
"These consequences will be enduring.
"Your lies to the police and others after Rebecca’s death were actions after the event, no doubt in part borne out of panic, which hampered the police investigation and were designed to avail you.
"There is some evidence that your relationship with Rebecca was marked by verbal fights and occasional acts of pushing.
"There is no reliable evidence of anything more serious than that."
The court heard Knott has no previous convictions and has children from a previous relationship.
The judge said: "Generally speaking, you are a decent and hardworking man, and a good father.
"There is evidence of positive good character in your case although I would question your powers of self-control when in drink."
The judge told Knott he did not deserve credit for pleading guilty, saying: "You could have offered this at the first available opportunity
"At the very least, that would have saved a lot of emotional anguish, and would have provided the family the early comfort that you were accepting responsibility."
After the hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Emma Winfield of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team said:
"We welcome today’s sentencing for the manslaughter of Rebecca Simpson and that Knott has accepted responsibility in her tragic death.
"Rebecca was a much loved mum, sister and daughter and I’m glad the family will not have to endure the rest of the trial after his guilty plea.
"Although this sentence will never bring Rebecca back, I hope it in some way will bring her family some closure."