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Businessman ‘punished’ ex-wife with hammer ambush attack

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A successful businessman “punished” his ex-wife for leaving him by attacking her with a hammer and screwdriver.

Alec Butt, 71, was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Monday (May 10) to seven years and nine months in prison, after being found guilty of grievous bodily harm against the mother of his children.

Wearing a hoodie and mask, Butt hid behind bins and ambushed his ex outside her workplace in Whiteladies Road, Clifton, shortly after 5pm on December 28, 2019.

Butt, then of Rylestone Grove in Westbury-on-Trym, had “brooded in an unfurnished home, fuelled by anger and resentment” over his former wife’s new relationship with what he called “the odd job man”, the court heard.

In her personal statement, Mrs Butt said she was “absolutely terrified” during the attack. She believed she would die in the car park.

“I remember during the incident I kept seeing my children’s faces before my eyes, and also my parents. When I pulled his hood down, it confirmed what I already knew.

“We had been married 18 years, and I had real fears he would do something like this, as I reported to police in 2018. But to actually see him go through with this was so shocking.”

When the victim left work, Butt crept up on her and pushed her against a wall. They both went to the floor and got up again as the struggle continued.

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He hit her multiple times, with both a hammer and screwdriver, and he banged her head against the wall and floor. In the darkness of the winter evening, Butt placed his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming.

A witness called the police, prompting Butt to flee. He was arrested about 90 minutes later sat in his car, in a car park near Cribbs Causeway.

His wife was taken to hospital with head injuries. She has made a full recovery from the physical wounds, but the attack has had a serious psychological impact.

In her statement, she said: “With my then-10-year-old twin girls, it was so hard to tell them their father had done that to their mother. I had to tell them as I honestly believed he would harm them to hurt me. I needed to protect my children and needed them to understand why.”

The court heard a long list of ways in which Mrs Butt has changed her life out of fear her former husband will attack her.

“I park my car right up against the garage in case someone is hiding against the recesses. I have discussed with my children an escape plan from the house if something happens. I was convinced he would employ someone to finish what he started.

“I am not comfortable in my back garden. I feel imprisoned in my home out of fear of what could happen. I take my personal alarm everywhere, even when I take out the bins. I sleep with it next to me and have 999 typed in before I go to bed so all I have to do is unlock it.

“I never leave the windows on the ground floor open. If I stop at traffic lights I have to wind the window up. I can’t have shopping delivered to my house anymore as I am scared to have an unknown person to my house.

“I am so on edge. I don’t feel I can walk down the street confidently anymore. If anyone looks at me, I feel panic. There are days when my anxiety is so high, I can’t face leaving the house.

“Because my anxiety is so bad at times, I hate when my daughters, who are just children, have to deal with this. I just want them to feel safe and not afraid.”

She added she had suffered nightmares featuring Butt for three months, “filling” her with fear.

“Because he has stopped paying full child maintenance, I have had to take in a lodger to the house, which has made me feel safer,” Mrs Butt said.

Her former husband was bailed following the offence and allowed to visit the greater Bristol area on certain days, with an exclusion zone around Mrs Butt’s home.

The trial was only held in March 2021, after being postponed due to coronavirus. When it was delayed, Mrs Butt felt “like the world crumbled around me” as she “struggled to deal with the unknown”.

Butt, whose twin daughters are now 12 years old, wore a black face mask and a navy jumper over a blue and white striped shirt in court on Monday.

Paul Mendelle, mitigating, accepted his client’s bloodied ski jacket had been found in his car, but argued Butt did not conceal evidence and there was “no evidence to a criminal standard that he got rid of an item of clothing”.

He said: “What Mrs Butt has described in her personal statement is a state of anxiety, a very understandable anxiety, but none of her fears have eventuated, despite Mr Butt being on bail and coming to the Bristol area many times. He has never attempted to contact her.”

Mr Mendelle argued Mrs Butt did not have permanent psychological trauma and noted she had not taken up a doctor’s suggestion she could use medication.

He added: “Credit to her, she is obviously a woman of some fortitude, but it wouldn’t be right for the offence to be aggravated to any great extent by her psychological difficulties.”

The lawyer described the offence as “very much isolated”, saying his client recognised the damage caused and showed remorse. According to Mr Mendelle, Butt said of his ex-wife’s anxiety: “That is not I want her to feel at all.”

The lawyer continued: “He is a successful businessman and a good provider for his family. He will likely be socially isolated in prison due to his background and age, and it’s going to be a very tough life.”

Butt, who has been on antidepressants since the offence, is concerned over whether he will be able to continue to run his business from prison, the court heard.

Handing down the sentence, Judge James Patrick said: “You were angry at the decision of Mrs Butt to separate from you. You punished her for that decision, confiscated her car and threatened to take away her credit card.

“In December 2019, you rented a substantial but unfurnished property near the family home. At the same time, she told you she had formed a relationship with, as you put it, ‘the odd job man’.

“The combination of her in a new relationship and enjoying the home and its contents which you loved, meant that you brooded in an unfurnished home, fuelled by resentment and anger.”

This anger led Butt to “hatch a plot” to violently attack his ex-wife, the judge continued.

“I am sure you intended to hurt her badly,” he said. “That is evidenced by the previous threats you had made.

“Having discovered her working pattern over the Christmas period, you decided to attack her on December 28, knowing she would be at work.

“You changed from your usual smart clothes into a hoodie and mask, and armed yourself with a hammer and screwdriver.”

Rejecting Butt’s claim he had acted in self-defence, the judge told him: “You told lie after lie in your evidence to the jury, but the jury saw through you.”

The judge said he was sure Butt’s business would cope without him. He added: “I’m sure you have feelings of regret but I am equally sure you regret most the situation in which you have placed yourself.”

Butt is set to serve the final third of his prison sentence – of seven years and nine months – on licence. He must pay a £181 victim services surcharge.

The defendant has no previous convictions for violent offences. He has one drink-driving offence to his name.

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