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Crawley man says he killed wife and pensioner in ‘psychotic episode’

A husband ‘looked like the Incredible Hulk as he bludgeoned a pensioner and his own teacher wife to death with a walking stick in a quiet residential street’, a court has heard.

Daniel Appleton, 37, is accused of murdering Sandy Seagrave, 76, with her own walking stick, and Amy Appleton, 32, just three days before Christmas last year.

The elderly woman had stepped in to stop him beating his wife Amy on the driveway of their village home in Crawley Down, West Sussex.

After he had allegedly beaten the pensioner to death the mechanic, who was wearing just his boxer shorts, then turned his attention back to his wife.

Amy Appleton, 32, was a teacher

Good Samaritan Sandy Seagrave, 76, had tried to intervene and help

Sandy Seagrave, 76, (pictured right) had stepped in to stop Daniel Appleton, 37, beating his wife Amy, 32 (left). Both women were bludgeoned to death with Ms Seagrave’s walking stick

Appleton (pictured), 37, is accused of murdering Ms Seagrave with her own walking stick, and 32-year-old Amy in Crawley Down, West Sussex, last year

Appleton (pictured), 37, is accused of murdering Ms Seagrave with her own walking stick, and 32-year-old Amy in Crawley Down, West Sussex, last year

Hove Crown Court heard Amy, who was trying to hide from her husband behind the car on the driveway, was beaten to death with the same walking stick.

Neighbours who witnessed the alleged double murder said Appleton – normally a shy, retiring man – looked ‘huge, bold and puffed up’, like ‘the Incredible Hulk’.

Sue Kipps, who lived opposite and saw Appleton marching about the driveway in his underwear, said: ‘I could see him pacing up and down the driveway. He was dressed in his underwear. He seemed agitated and angry and looked all puffed up.

In a statement, she said: ‘Even from a distance his eyes didn’t look right. It was as though he had turned into the Incredible Hulk.’

She added: ‘He’s a big guy anyway but he looked different, maybe a bit crazy. He seemed very big, puffed up – like he was in some sort of madness.’

The court heard Appleton went back into his house but reappeared moments later completely naked.

Mrs Kipps said neighbours shouted ‘get away, get away’ when he came out of the house.

She said: ‘He looked like he was on another planet, like he’d lost the plot. He seemed big, bold and scary. I didn’t want to approach him as he looked scary.’

Appleton is on trial at Hove Crown Court for two counts of murder which happened on December 22 last year.

Dressed in a purple shirt and dark trousers, he admitted killing the women but denies murder, claiming it was the result of a psychotic episode. 

Appleton (pictured above with wife Amy) admits killing the women but denies murder, claiming it was the result of a psychotic episode

Appleton (pictured above with wife Amy) admits killing the women but denies murder, claiming it was the result of a psychotic episode

Prosecutors claim Appleton had taken a synthetic form of LSD and was high when he launched the attacks.

Today the court heard that in the aftermath of the tragedy Appleton admitted killing his wife.

The court heard he told neighbour Gary Wigzell, who had been alerted to the commotion and was attending to Amy on the driveway: ‘I know I murdered my wife. I know I’m going to prison.’

He said: ‘A man appeared out of the front door. He was totally naked. He was agitated, angry. He was gesturing up to the people who were attending Sandy.

Ms Seagrave (above) had stepped in to stop Appleton beating his wife on the driveway of their Crawley home

Ms Seagrave (above) had stepped in to stop Appleton beating his wife on the driveway of their Crawley home 

‘I did not feel threatened because he had nothing in his hands. He turned to me, took a step towards me, leant over me and said: “I know I’ve murdered my wife. I know I’m going to prison.”

‘I said: “I suggest you go back indoors.” He then leant forward and said: “What is your name then?” so I told him and then he just stepped back and he went back in the house.’

The court heard Appleton went into his house and tried to kill himself, stabbing himself at least five times in the chest with a large kitchen knife, cutting his neck and slashing his thighs in an attempt to cut the femoral arteries.

Earlier the jury was told neighbour Janet Spragg, who was out on a morning run with her Dalmatian, had witnessed the attack.

She stopped as she saw Ms Seagrave approaching Appleton and saw an altercation between the pair.

She told the court: ‘You could tell she was not happy and was telling him off and he was walking towards her. He was much bigger than Sandy. He was quite upright. He was quite determined and there was an altercation.

‘She was going over to tell him off about something and his language was bluer and was more aggressive. There were expletives.

‘She wasn’t intimidated. She walked towards him. He took the walking stick, he did it very quickly. I thought: “Why would you do that?”

The attack took place on a quiet suburban street (pictured) just three days before Christmas last year, as neighbours said they saw the attack from their homes

The attack took place on a quiet suburban street (pictured) just three days before Christmas last year, as neighbours said they saw the attack from their homes

A forensic tent is pictured inside a police cordon in Crawley Down, West Sussex, following the attack in December last year

A forensic tent is pictured inside a police cordon in Crawley Down, West Sussex, following the attack in December last year

Breaking down in tears, Mrs Spragg said she watched as Appleton then suddenly hit the pensioner with the stick.

She said: ‘It was a very quick act and with all his force he hit her in the stomach, with force and she just collapsed. The force was so disproportionate and that is when I shouted out “no”‘.

Ivonne Greenwell, who saw the incident unfold from her bedroom window, said Appleton grabbed the walking stick out of the pensioner’s hand and hit her over the head causing Ms Seagrave to fall to the ground.

‘There was no noise,’ she said. ‘It happened in a flash and she was on the ground motionless. She did not move. She did not say anything. I was on the phone to the emergency services.

‘I banged my hand on the window a couple of times and shouted “stop it Dan, Stop it. Don’t do it.”

‘He then took the walking stick in both hands and with full force hit Sandy over the head. I screamed that he was killing her, that he had hit her.

‘My daughter was standing next to me. She could see the verbal altercation and she saw him snatch the walking stick from Sandy and she saw him raise the walking stick and then she ran away to her bedroom and hid under the blankets.

‘It was too horrible to watch so I turned around and left my bedroom.’

When police officers, armed with tasers, found Appleton covered in his own blood on the floor of his kitchen he said to them “shoot me. Kill me now.”

Sgt Christopher Brakell, who was first on the scene, said he was ‘shocked’ by how normal the house looked. He said the interior of the semi-detached home was clean and tidy and appeared ‘ready for Christmas.’

He said: ‘This was just a quaint scene. There was a Christmas tree, presents under the tree, ready for Christmas. It shocked me to see such normality around such chaos.’

The court heard that in an interview with a psychiatrist, Appleton admitted having taken magic mushrooms – a natural hallucinogen – years before.

But forensic searches of his mobile phone found that just 11 days before the killings he had searched for ‘worse mushrooms, worse mushrooms trip, bad mushrooms trip stories and strongest mushrooms’.

Nick Corsellis QC, prosecuting, said hair samples and nail clippings subsequently taken from the defendant showed the presence of 25i-NBOMe – a highly potent synthetic version of LSD – and mephedrone.

Experts believe both drugs could have been responsible for his violent psychotic behaviour and may have been present at the time of the attacks.

The trial continues.

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