The daughter of a woman who knifed her husband to death says the last time she ever saw the victim being violent towards the defendant was more than 20 years beforehand, after his son took his own life.
Penelope Jackson, 66, stabbed 78-year-old David Jackson three times in the kitchen of their home on Parsonage Road in Berrow, Somerset, on February 13 this year.
Jackson admits manslaughter but denies murder, claiming her husband, a retired lieutenant colonel, was both violent and coercively controlling of her.
On Monday, Jackson’s daughter from a previous marriage, Isabelle Potterton, whom the victim had raised as his own from birth, told Bristol Crown Court she had seen her father pull a knife on her mother.
She described three incidents that took place around 1997 or 1998 when the family had been living on a military base in Germany.
Mrs Potterton, now 31, described her father getting her out of bed and telling her to get a mug filed with chocolates she had got Jackson for Mother’s Day out of its hiding place in the airing cupboard.
“(The victim) smashed it in front of me,” she said.
The witness said her father would have known she had bought the gift for her mother “because he would have given me the money”.
On another occasion, Mrs Potterton recalled coming home from school and finding her father pushing her mother up against the wall, and her mother ending up with a bloody nose.
“After that my mum packed two suitcases and we went and stayed in a hotel that night, she said we were leaving,” Mrs Potterton said.
She continued: “It was really early in the morning and my mum woke me up and said: ‘We are going back home.’
“To my understanding it was mum who wanted to go back to being with dad, so (they) could work it out.”
On the final occasion, Mrs Potterton recalled her father’s two daughters from his first marriage, his daughter-in-law, grandson and his mother visiting them in Germany.
“We were all having a barbecue in the garden. I can remember mum saying something and everyone jumping up and running into the house.”
She said a few moments later, she saw Jackson up against a door on the top floor of the house with the victim holding a knife to her throat.
It took three of the guests to pull her father off her mother, she said.
Mrs Potterton said she was unable to put the memories in order, and said she did not see another occasion when her father was violent towards the defendant.
Referring to the death of Mr Jackson’s son, Gavin, prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC said: “Would it be fair to say it had a profound effect on your dad?”
Mrs Potterton replied: “Yes, it broke him.”
“The worst time of his life?” Mr Quinlan asked.
“Yes, without a doubt,” the witness responded.
She agreed Mr Jackson had sought counselling to help him cope with his son’s death.
When asked by the prosecutor, Mrs Potterton agreed that her parents seemed to be enjoying a happy retirement together, and had lots of shared interests including a love of cruise holidays and gardening.
Mr Quinlan said: “You’ve heard your unit, if I can put it like that, described as a very tight one – the three of you against the world. Do you agree?”
“Yes,” Mrs Potterton replied.
She said her parents would often bicker over small things, with her mother’s temper flaring and quickly passing, while her father had a tendency to “sulk”.
Mrs Potterton added that her mother had mentioned leaving her father “sporadically” over the years, but never in any depth.
She recalled ending a Zoom dinner call she and her husband had arranged for her mother’s birthday on February 13 – the day of the killing – because her parents were bickering over who had forgotten to charge the iPad.
“Mum was getting upset and dad was walking out of the room, and I just said: ‘Let’s leave it there.’”
Mrs Potterton said: “I thought: ‘It’s just another bicker, they will be absolutely fine’. I wasn’t upset or anything and we ended it there.”
She called her mother at 8.08pm to check she was OK.
“(The defendant) said: ‘I’m absolutely fine, don’t worry I’ll call you in the morning’,” Mrs Potterton said.
Her mother would fatally stab her father just over an hour later.
The jury is due to retire to consider its verdict later this week.