A woman previously convicted of murdering her husband but successfully appealed down to a lesser charge of manslaughter will now be able to fully inherit his estate instead of the couple’s children.
In 2010, Sally Challen went to visit her estranged husband with a hammer in her purse. As her husband, Richard, ate lunch, Sally beat him to death with the Hammer, leaving a note on his body that said, “I love you.” She then fled the home and was later arrested and convicted for his murder.
Sally and Richard were married for three decades, the Mirror reported. At her murder trial, Sally repeatedly admitted to murdering her husband but wouldn’t say why except that she had suspected he was seeing another woman and after stalking him discovered a voicemail from another woman asking Richard to dinner. Her niece, Dalla, said that Sally “hacked into his email and asked neighbours who he had been at the house with. I suspect she was stalking him.”
The couple had already separated at the time of the murder. Richard moved out and began dating again, while Sally struggled to move on and eventually begged Richard to take her back. Sally told police after the murder, “I wasn’t thinking ‘I’m going to go and kill Richard’. I was thinking I’m going to go there and there’s a possibility, depending on how it panned out.”
Dalla, the Mirror reported, was convinced there was more to Sally’s reasoning behind killing her husband, so she reached out to Justice For Women, a feminist organization that defends women who killed their partners and claim to have been abused.
After Sally met with the organization, she started claiming she had been emotionally abused throughout her marriage to Richard. From the outside, friends described the marriage as “old fashioned” and said Sally was “all about servicing Richard.” The couple lived in luxury as Richard owned a second-hand car garage. The couple lived in a wealthy area of Surrey with their two sons, James and David, who each attended private school.
Most of the accusations are from Sally herself, with little corroborating evidence. She claimed that when she got a part-time job at the police federation, Richard ordered her to start paying the couple’s bills and purchasing all their food. Her brothers said they noticed that over the years she started voicing her opinion less and less, though no suggestion is made that this was because of Richard. Sally also claimed that after a male friend in Los Angeles hugged and kissed her while she was vacationing with Richard in 1998, her husband pushed her “into the bedroom and forced sex on me. He was brutal and said nothing.”
David, one of the couple’s sons, said that whatever happened in America “was never talked about but it was always clear you never crossed my father.”
Sally claimed she could never refuse Richard when he wanted sex and would be told to “get ready” when he wanted it, an indication that she should clean herself. At some point, Richard started refusing to have sex with Sally, and she began trying to tempt him with raunchy outfits. She started stalking her husband and checking his phone and pockets to discover he was frequenting a brothel, which upset her. She even called the cops after the brothel was raided to report her husband as a visitor. She told police on that call that her husband was dead, but Richard took the phone and told police things were fine.
In 2009, Sally left Richard, but soon regretted the move as she was unable to cope with single life. Richard went on dates and seemed to have no issue moving on. Their son David lived with Sally while James lived with Richard.
Sally eventually begged Richard to take her back. He agreed, but wrote up a post-nuptual agreement that allegedly demanded Sally quit smoking, only visit him once a week, never interrupt him, and go through with the divorce. She was also told that she would only receive £200,000 in the event they separate again, which amounted to a fraction of Richard’s assets. These odd and conflicting alleged demands hurt Sally, she said, and on that day in 2010 she went to his home with a hammer in her purse. Richard allegedly demanded she travel in the rain to get ingredients for his lunch, and Sally suspected he wanted her out of the house to talk to one of his lady friends.
“There was so much going on in my head. I knew he was seeing another woman,” Sally said in a statement during her appeal process. “I looked at his computer and could see he was sending emails to various women.”
She would later admit, “I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I had the hammer in my bag.”
Their son David cleaned their father’s blood from the kitchen and said he only learned of the alleged abuse after Richard died. Even though the adult children admitted in a BBC documentary that it was “obviously a struggle to let her be our mum again,” they were happy when she was released from jail in 2019. She had been convicted to 22 years back in 2011. Sally began her appeal by claiming “coercive control,” after it became a crime in England and Wales in 2015. The BBC described coercive control as “a pattern of behaviour by an abuser to harm, punish or frighten their victim.”
The media covering Sally’s story have positioned her as an abused wife who fought back without acknowledging the lack of evidence for her claims.
Sally was able to appeal her murder conviction and take a lesser charge of manslaughter. She was released after a judge determined she had served enough time for Richard’s death.
This week, Sally was also granted her request to inherit Richard’s estate, after a judge waived the rule that barred people who killed their spouse’s from inheriting their estate.
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