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The Murder of Pensioner Joan Charlton: Sentence Is Passed, but Is It Enough?

Mrs Joan Charlton

Retired teacher Joan Charlton

Retired teacher Joan Charlton

Joan Charlton

Above is a photograph of Mrs Joan Charlton.

She was an 85-year-old resident of the city where I live in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. I say was as this lady was recently murdered.

When her body was discovered at her home, a small council house, police were uncertain just how long she had been dead. She was found Thursday, June 11th, 2009, after police were alerted.

With what I know of death I would guess that neighbors realized something was wrong due to a problem with flies or a nasty smell. Then again it could just be that people realized they had not seen Mrs Charlton for some time.

The victim died of multiple head injuries but it has also been reported that every bone in this lady's face was broken.

As the press reported it was a violent attack in what should have been this lady's sanctuary from the outside world, her home. The area where she lived is not the best part of the city but neither is it traditionally that bad. In fact when we first married years ago we lived nearby but of course it could have changed more recently.

Initially police were looking for this lady's 40-year-old gardener as a person of interest. He seemed to be the chief suspect.

However a 20-year-old man was subsequently arrested, charged and convicted of Mrs Charlton’s murder.

Local press and news reports June 15th, 2009

Our local press reported this to quote today via our local police officers:-

Detective Supt Fleming described the attack on Mrs Charlton as "horrific" as she appealed for anyone with information to come forward. She said: "This is a particularly horrendous and brutal attack."I would ask anyone who may know anything at all about this incident to please come forward."

Mrs Charlton, a widow for more than three decades, lived alone in her terraced house.

Police want to establish her movements prior to her death in part to try to ascertain the date of death.

Friends and neighbors of Mrs Charlton earlier paid tribute to a "lovely, warm, and kind-hearted" woman.

Joyce Taylor, 83, who has lived in West Parade for 28 years, said Joan had loved her garden. She said: " She would spend hours tending to it, she was always outside pruning her roses." Another neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said Mrs Charlton had been a "quiet" lady who was always happy.

She told the Mail: "We rarely saw her but whenever we did it would always be when she was looking after her garden. "She loved being there and always seemed really happy when she was. "She would always say hello and always smiled."

Forensic examinations continue to take place at the West Parade property.

Anyone with information should contact the major incident room at Tower Grange Police Station on (01482) 796271.

Alternatively, CrimeStoppers can be called anonymously on 0800 555111.

Opinion, thoughts, outrage and more

I know that Joan's fate is not unusual in this day and age.

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It was not even unique when I was a child.

I also know that old people can be troublesome at times, just like we all can be. However what incites someone to brutally murder an elderly person is beyond me.

There appears to have been no other motive than robbery in this nasty murder.

To die from such a "sustained and brutal attack" is appalling for anyone. No person should have to leave this earth in such a way and nor should any friends and family have to cope with such a loss.

However to reach the age of 85, looking so well and happy only to be beaten to death, beggars belief.

The resistance that an elderly person could offer against a young person would be minimal. Excessive force would have been totally unnecessary. For, however, strong this woman may have been she would have failed against a young, strong attacker.

So this leads me to the question "Why this amount of force?"

Was it that Mrs Charlton's attacker got a sick thrill out of inflicting pain?

Only the murderer knows and perhaps he will withhold such information.

The Death Sentence

I have never felt comfortable about the death sentence for crimes such as murder.

It just feels wrong.

Add to this the fact that many unsafe sentences have previously been passed each year and capital punishment is a no-no for me.

Cases in the U.K. such as that of Stephan Kiszko who served a long sentence, plus beatings in jail, for a murder he did not commit prove that the death sentence is still unsafe.

However if the criminal justice system ever finds a way of confirming a person's guilt 100% surely the perpetrators of such crimes as the murder of Joan must face the fate that they gave their victim.

Even then it will not be as drawn out and painful as it was for their victim but it will be justice.

Consider criminals such as The Yorkshire Ripper, in England, who there is no doubt killed many women. Such crimes probably mean he is insane.

However such insanity deserves and needs life imprisonment and I mean LIFE. If he is sane then his cruelty and inhumanity warrants the death sentence.

Inappropriate sentences

In recent years we have all seen and read about light sentences for convicted murderers. Whether it is a young person or an adult committing murder it is a crime which must be treat seriously. No doubt where you live you will be no different.

The murder of Joan Charlton

When the full details of this case were publicized there were more terrible revelations.

Updated Information

June 17th, 2009

A press statement confirmed that Mrs Charlton's 20-year-old next door neighbor was charged with her murder. The young man had lived next door to her for six years and his parents live a few doors along. It appears that burglary was the main purpose of this man's break into Mrs Charlton's home.

August 26, 2009

Having received contact from a relative of Mrs Charlton's, through this hub, I wanted to make sure that any update was appropriate.

Joan was finally laid to rest and her family were left with the task of coming to terms with their loss.

Our local press reported that the person arrested in connection with this murder admitted his crime. Currently the case is adjourned awaiting psychiatric reports. The results of these will determine what his plea will be.

Either way he will be pleading guilty but perhaps these reports will modify this plea somewhat.

Whether or not the sentence will fit the crime remains to be seen but it is hoped that it does.

September 15th, 2009

Having missed the local news for a few days I had not realized that the killer, Mr. Tozer has now been sentenced.

A link to the local report was sent to me by a relative of Mrs Charlton.

Robert Tozer was handed down a 30 year prison sentence was quickly reduced.

As he pleaded guilty the sentence was reduced by 5 years and due to the defendant's young age a further 3 years was removed.

This leaves Tozer serving 22 years in Jail.

Imagine how the family, neighbors and friends of this dear lady must feel.

It is hard to imagine, and the report makes painful reading but read it we must.

Without the knowledge that there are such terrible people living among us today how can we ever stop them and prevent further tragedies?

I for one do not think that a 22 year prison sentence, for a young man, will do the trick.

Bear in mind that the gruesome details in the press are only the tip of the iceberg and that this man, for one so young, already had a history of violent offences.

RIP Joan and Sincere Condolences to your loved ones.

Capital Punishment


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Ethel Smith


Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 22, 2010:

Thanks for your input Lita. I am no longer sure what the answer is.

Lita C. Malicdem from Philippines on September 20, 2010:

In my country, death penalty was already abolished more than 2 decades ago. But with the onslaught of brutal killings today, those in government are suggesting to resurrect it. These people will never learn, what to do, really. After the issue of heinous crimes die down, they forget their stand, anyway. I'm pro-life. Death penalty isn't the answer to our increasing problem such as this that you detailed.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 22, 2010:

I think that would have been a fitting sentence in this case Sheila

sheila b. on June 21, 2010:

Here in the US, at least in some states, we do have a sentence of life without parole, often called L-Wop.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 10, 2010:

Thanks for your input Rodney. It is not an easy subject but such horrific murderers need stopping once and for all.

Rodney Fagan from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City on June 09, 2010:


The Death sentence is twofold.

It is a definite deterrent. I am not sure of the statistics of all the countries, so only have my country to consider.

Since the abolition of the death sentence the rape and murder statistics have increased.

At the same time there has been an increase in the overall population as well.

If the death penalty was reintroduced for Rape, Child Molestation, as well Murder especially aggravated assault resulting in a death, I feel we would have a safer society.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on January 24, 2010:

Thanks Habee. I have been brought close to one of Joan's relatives through this Hub. It makes you reales the full impact of such inhuman muderers

Holle Abee from Georgia on January 24, 2010:

Great hub, tragic story. I will never understand man's inhumanity to man.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on July 04, 2009:

Diane that's sweet of you to say.

Diane on July 04, 2009:

A Yorkshire friend felt she had to apologise for all Yorkshire folk. Absolutely no need - I know Hull well and still have friends there (who. like you, were flooded - only just back in their home after all this time). Sadly, there are rotten apples in every barrel no matter where we live - but there are also a whole load of very sweet apples. Thanks for your thoughts Ethel.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on July 04, 2009:

Diane I simply do not know what to say. Know that our thoughts are with you though and that there are still many decent people living in Hull.

Diane on July 04, 2009:

I voted a resounding YES - Joan was my beloved Aunt. The quietest and most gentle of women and I am still breaking my heart just thinking what the horrors of her last minutes on this earth must have been like.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2009:

Life sentences should mean just without parole! We don't need these people who do these horrible crimes walking the streets again.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 15, 2009:

I know it is a very emotive subject. I guess the older I get and the more regular and horrific crimes I read and hear about makes me find it harder to agree with a life sentence which may only last 8 years. Recently three young men received life sentence for the random stabbling of another young man. He was stabbed 11 times in a frenzied pointless attack. I just wonder what that life sentence will be?

men are dorks from Namibia on June 15, 2009:

Kill the killers and child abusers

Iðunn on June 14, 2009:

I'm anti death penalty so I voted no, but like you, I have no idea why people commit crimes like this.  I can't wrap my mind around them at all.  I'm American so our nation is very keen on death penatly and life without parole.  I'm not for either with exception to lwp for those who have an illness that drives them to repeat abuse against children.

We had a case here about two weeks ago where a woman was raped and there was another high profile case like it in 2007.  Unbelieveable. 

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