Jury out in Chiswick shooting case

Conflicting Opinions From Psychiatrists and Friends on what made Rena Salmon shoot Lorna Stewart

The Old Bailey Jury, who have been charged with the unenviable task of deciding whether Rena Salmon is guilty of murder or manslaughter have been told by the judge to use ‘common sense’.

Floral tributes outside the shop where the shooting occured

Rena Salmon denies murdering Lorna Stewart on 10th September 2002 on the grounds of ‘diminished responsibility’. Her defence stated that she suffered an "abnormality of mind" which, if accepted, would mean she should be found guilty of manslaughter.

However, after a week of continuous evidence, the court has heard from experts and friends, conflicting opinions of Rena Salmon and her state of mind leading up to and on the fateful day last year.

Mrs Salmon claims that she went to Ms Stewart's beauty salon on the Chiswick High Road that day to kill herself as "no-one would want to use a centre where someone had blown their brains out". However, prosecuting QC Peter Clarke said “We say it is quite clear - she went in there to kill her rival, not herself. The gun barrel was pointing at Lorna Stewart throughout.”

He went on to add that "There was no question of pointing it at her own head. The shots ten seconds apart were quite deliberate. The gap between was quite long enough to realise, if it was a mistake or to be suicide, to put the gun to one side or turn it on itself."

Paul Salmon Defence QC, Paul Curran disagreed stating that psychiatrists had shown that "anger is a symptom of a depressive illness" and was what doctors would expect to see in somebody who was clinically depressed.

The court heard Mrs Salmon came to her senses hours later in the police station when she said "I've really done it." Her defence claimed "If that's not a clear picture of somebody who is suffering an abnormality of mind when they've killed somebody and their responsibility is diminished, how can anyone ask for more?"

Judge Neil Denison told the jury to put aside any sympathy and decide on the basis of the evidence, using common sense, whether the case was one of murder or manslaughter. He added people often went though a period of "intense unhappiness" when marriages broke up and many felt "justifiable anger" towards the person they considered responsible, but "very rarely" did they kill that person.

Asked for her reaction to Mrs Salmon's comments about an alleged suicide pact with her children, Dr Helen Whitworth, from Holloway Prison, said "She has a depressive illness. Suicide ideas are much more common in people with depression and children are often regarded as an extension of themselves."

When cross-examined by the prosecuting QC Peter Clarke QC, Dr Whitworth agreed that a severe depressive episode was not a "licence to murder".

The court has also heard evidence from Rena Salmon's sister who spoke of a ‘difficult childhood’ where the girls experienced physical and emotional abuse from their mother. Dr Whitworth said she had made strenuous attempts to corroborate the account of her childhood but social services records "were not forthcoming" and that Rena Salmon’s mother had made a statement disagreeing with her daughter’s claims.

One of the hardest moments of this week for Rena Salmon must have been when her friend, Deborah Burke, mouthed ‘sorry’ after she gave evidence for the prosecution. Mrs Burke was very emotional as she told the court how she had spoken to her friend the day before the shooting and that that she was "having a rough time".

She claimed that Rena Salmon had said 'I have got a gun. I am not going to kill her, but shoot her here so she could not have any more babies. (indicating to her abdomen)”.

After the incident Mrs Salmon is alleged to have said "I only intended to hurt her like she hurt us. He will never forgive me now. He will never forgive me now."

A further witness, family friend Bill Sims, told the court that Mrs Salmon had said she wanted to "exact revenge" after her husband moved in with Ms Stewart.

May 16, 2003

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