Wales

Chip shop owner 'killed wife with boiling oil'

Geoffrey Bran arriving at Swansea Crown Court
Image caption Geoffrey Bran is on trial at Swansea Crown Court

A fish and chip shop owner killed his wife by "throwing boiling oil" over her, a court has heard.

Geoffrey Bran, 71, denies murdering Mavis Bran, 69, in Hermon, Carmarthenshire, in October 2018.

Mrs Bran died in Swansea's Morriston Hospital, six days after suffering burns at The Chipoteria.

Swansea Crown Court heard Mrs Bran rang a friend after having scalding oil thrown at her, pleading with her to come and help.

Mr and Mrs Bran, who had been married for 30 years, opened the chip shop in a wooden cabin in January 2018 - one of a number of small businesses they owned.

Image copyright Heno
Image caption Mavis Bran died six days after sustaining severe burns at the chip shop she ran

In the months leading up to her death, Mrs Bran's friend Caroline Morgan noticed the couple's relationship was seemingly deteriorating, the court heard, with Mr Bran appearing withdrawn and his wife expressing concerns about his health.

She had told Ms Morgan she was "frightened of the defendant and afraid he was going to kill her".

'Skin coming off'

In a phone call at about 13:15 BST on 23 October last year, Mrs Bran told Ms Morgan: "Caroline, please help me, please, emergency, emergency, please get here. Geoff has thrown boiling oil over me," the jury was told.

Ms Morgan drove to the shop and told a lodger at the nearby house, Gareth Davies, to phone an ambulance.

Image copyright S4C
Image caption Geoffrey Bran denies killing his wife

Mr Bran told Mr Davies and Ms Morgan there had been an accident and Mrs Bran had slipped and pulled the fryer over herself.

Mr Davies told Mr Bran his wife's "skin was coming off her", but Mr Bran did not follow him to a neighbour's house where Mrs Bran had fled for help.

He asked Ms Morgan to cook some fish for new customers, but she told him to shut the shop.

Prosecutor Paul Lewis QC told the court: "It appears that financial pressures of their various businesses would at times put a strain on their relationship and they would sometimes argue about money.

"They are described by people who knew them as a couple who both had short tempers, and who have 'always argued, swearing and shouting at each other'.

"It is the prosecution case that the terrible burns that Mrs Bran suffered were not the result of an accident, but were caused by her husband deliberately pushing or throwing over her a deep fat fryer which contained scalding oil."

Mrs Bran was taken by air ambulance to the burns unit at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, where doctors found she had suffered burns to 46% of her body.

After being ventilated, she was unable to tell police what happened, the court heard.

Paramedic Alison Williams said that when they asked Mrs Bran what happened, she told them: "My husband threw the hot fat over me".

Image copyright Athena Pictures
Image caption The couple ran The Chipoteria in Carmarthenshire, one of a number of businesses they owned

Ms Williams said she heard Mrs Bran say: "Go and get him so that he can see the state of me and see what he has done."

She later developed sepsis and hypothermia and underwent surgery to remove some of her burned skin but died from multi-organ failure at the hospital six days after the alleged attack.

Mr Bran was initially arrested on suspicion of assault and denied attacking his wife, telling police: "She got burned with the chip fryer. She slipped and it came off the top and went over her. Don't ask."

A nurse found he had a superficial cut to the front of his head and to the front of his neck, as well as a scuff abrasion to his right forearm.

He later said in an interview his wife had become "upset and agitated" because a fryer in their van was dirty and she became angry at him because four fish had been spoiled, before adding: "She can lose all reason."

The accused said his wife threw the spoiled fish in a temper, causing hot fat to fly through the air which led to her pulling the fryer unit down on top of herself.

Mr Bran was re-arrested on suspicion of murder on 22 November last year.

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