United Kingdom

Businessman, 71, gets seven-year sentence after he attacked his ex-wife with a hammer

A successful businessman has been given a seven-year sentence after he '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 to seven years and nine months in prison, while he is set to serve the final third on licence.

The judge rejected Butt's claim that he had acted in self-defence as he was found guilty of grievous bodily harm against his ex-wife Anna Butt. 

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

Anna has released shocking images of the injuries she suffered after her ex-husband attacked her - and has urged other domestic abuse victims to speak out. 

Alec Butt, 71, (above) was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Monday to seven years and nine months in prison after he was found guilty of grievous bodily harm against ex-wife Anna Butt

Butt, then of Rylestone Grove in Westbury-on-Trym, hid behind bins at his ex-wife's workplace in Whiteladies Road, Clifton, wearing a hoodie and a mask shortly after 5pm on December 28, 2019.

Covering his face to hide his identity, Butt pushed the mother of his children against a wall and used a hammer and a screwdriver to inflict significant injuries to her head, arms and hands. He also placed his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming. 

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

His wife was rushed to hospital with head injuries and although she made a full recovery from the physical wounds, the attack has had a serious psychological impact.

Butt 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 on Monday.

In her personal statement, Anna Butt, who had been married to Butt for 18 years, said she was 'absolutely terrified' during the attack and added that she believed she would die in the car park.

She continued: '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.' 

In her statement, Anna said it was 'hard' to tell her then-10-year-old twin girls that 'their father had done that to their mother'.

Anna has released shocking images of the injuries (above) she suffered after her ex-husband attacked her - and has urged other domestic abuse victims to speak out

She continued: '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 Anna has changed her life out of fear her former husband will attack her, including discussing an escape plan from the house with her children.

She added: '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 said she suffered nightmares featuring Butt for three months 'filling' her with fear, while she has taken in a lodger after Butt stopped paying full child maintenance, which has made her 'feel safer'.

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

Butt continued to deny being responsible for the attack despite the overwhelming evidence collected by police. He was found guilty by jurors in March following a trial.

On Monday, 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.

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'. 

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

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.' 

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.

Butt pushed Anna up against a wall and used a hammer and a screwdriver to inflict significant injuries to her head, arms and hands (above) shortly after 5pm on December 28, 2019

'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'.' 

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 also said that he was sure Butt's business would cope without him. Butt  must pay a £181 victim services surcharge.

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.'

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

Judge James Patrick jailed Butt for seven years and nine months, dismissing Butt's claim he acted in self-defence. He is set to serve the final third of his prison sentence on licence.

PC Nina Foster, the officer in the case, said: 'It's hard to put into words how courageous Anna and her whole family have been to get us to this position.

'To say today's sentencing marks the end of this chapter for them would be to downplay the seriousness of what has happened.

'But we hope it does bring some comfort to them that this dangerous man is safely behind bars.

'The photographs of the injuries Anna sustained will shock and appal people. But the mental and emotional scars that domestic abuse causes are often hidden and yet can be both more painful and longer lasting.

'Alec Butt is a violent abuser. His terrifying actions are inexcusable and have rightly seen him sent to prison.

'We hope today's result and the bravery shown by Anna encourages other victims to contact police or to seek support from a trusted friend or relative. You will be believed and we can help make you safe.'

Domestic abuse can be reported on 101, or 999 if it's an emergency. If you call and don't feel it's safe to speak, dial 55 and the operator will transfer your call to the police.

If you are a victim, or know someone you suspect is, for advice and support visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org.

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