Wales

Chip shop death: Victim 'afraid husband would kill her'

Geoffrey Bran Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Geoffrey Bran arriving at Swansea Crown Court

A woman who died after getting severe burns from a deep fat fryer in her chip shop was "afraid her husband would kill her", a court has heard.

Geoffrey Bran, 71, has denied murdering Mavis Bran, 69 in the incident at their shop The Chipoteria in Hermon, Carmarthenshire, in October 2018.

Swansea Crown Court had heard he deliberately threw boiling oil at her.

Mrs Bran had told a friend he was "getting nasty" and had assaulted her a number of times.

Caroline Morgan, a friend of the couple for 20 years, told the court she often helped out in their chip shop at weekends and described Mrs Bran as argumentative and "nagging", while Mr Bran was "the quiet one".

A few weeks before, Mrs Bran had phoned her saying she feared for her life.

"She said she was afraid he was going to kill her. She just said at one point that he was getting nasty," Mrs Morgan told the court.

"He had been pushing her into a chair and he had given her a couple of black eyes now and again."

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

The court heard she was in the Cardigan area on 23 October last year when she had a call from Mrs Bran.

"She was screaming down the phone begging for help and crying. She said help me, help me. Emergency. Emergency," Mrs Morgan said.

"Geoff has thrown boiling oil over me, help me, help me, get here now. I am burnt to hell."

She arrived 40 minutes later to find Mrs Bran's lodger Gareth Davies waiting for her. She went to attend to Mrs Bran, who was in the adjacent house, and while there Mr Bran did not ask about his wife's condition but asked Mrs Morgan to cook some fish in the kitchen.

Mr Bran claimed his wife had slipped and pulled the fryer over her, Mrs Morgan told the court.

No-one had called the emergency services so she asked Mr Davies to ring 999 as Mrs Bran, who was "rocking back and forth like a little old lady", was going into shock.

"The skin had fallen off the cheek of her face and her palms, and her neck was all blisters," Mrs Morgan said.

Defending, Christopher Clee QC asked if it was possible Mrs Morgan did not think Mr Bran had tipped oil over his wife.

She answered: "Yes, there are two sides to every story."

Paramedic Alison Williams, who was first on the scene, told the court Mrs Bran's burns were extremely severe with a lot of blistering and she was covered in fat.

She and a colleague had assessed how coherent Mrs Bran was and said: "She was completely alert."

She overheard Mrs Bran telling Mrs Morgan: "Go get him to make him see what he has done to me."

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

She told prosecutor Paul Lewis QC "not at any time" did she see Mr Bran treating his wife.

The court also heard from local farmer Guto Jones, who was collecting a telephone order from The Chipoteria shortly after the incident.

"Geoffrey said there had been a bit of an accident here," he told the court, adding: "He said, 'Mavis has burnt herself'."

Oil was spread all over the floor and was congealing and there were two pieces of fish lying there.

"I thought there had been a major accident but he replied, 'Mavis is cooking the fish in the house now'," Mr Jones said.

"I asked how did it happen and he said Mavis must have caught it on something."

He told the court a ginger-headed man (Gareth Davies), who he had seen working at the shop previously, came in carrying boxes and slipped. He appeared "traumatised, shocked, eyes wide open as if he had seen a ghost".

Mr Lewis asked: "Did Mr Bran seem like he had seen a ghost?"

"No," Mr Jones replied, adding he seemed "calm and collected".

He did not see Mrs Bran, and when asked what he had thought the extent of her injuries were, he replied: "I thought it was a minor burn on her forearm."

Mrs Bran died at Morriston Hospital in Swansea six days after the incident.

The trial continues.

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