Clare Nicholls has admitted killing 35-year-old

INJURIES: Andrew Gardner

INJURIES: Andrew Gardner

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

A WOMAN accused of torturing her long-suffering boyfriend has told a murder jury that she inflicted most of the 100-plus injuries found on his body after his death.

Clare Nicholls, who yesterday admitted killing 35-year-old Andrew Gardner, blamed her brother and her lover for contributing to the catalogue of broken bones, burns, bruises and cuts he suffered.

On a dramatic day of evidence, Miss Nicholls, 28, admitted falling on Mr Gardner’s ribs with her knees with enough force to fracture them, and slapping and punching him.

She also accepted humiliating him by having sex with her lover, Steven Martin, 44, while Mr Gardner was in the room.

On the ninth day of a trial at Teesside Crown Court, Miss Nicholls went into the witness box to give what she said was a truthful account of what happened in her home.

Before the former charity shop worker took to the stand, her barrister, Bertie Woodcock, asked for the murder indictment to be put to her for a second time.

Bespectacled Miss Nicholls pleaded not guilty to the charge, but admitted Mr Gardner’s manslaughter.

The unexpected move was not accepted by the prosecution, and Miss Nicholls’s defence case started with her tearfully answering questions from Mr Woodcock.

She told the jury of seven men and five women she delivered the blows that knocked Mr Gardner unconscious and appeared to have killed him on March 13, last year.

Miss Nicholls accepted having a bad temper and being controlling, and told the court that she and Mr Gardner had a row on the day of his death, about his laziness.

Under cross-examination from her brother’s barrister, Jamie Hill, she admitted being responsible for “the best part” of Mr Gardner’s injuries, but not all of them.

She denied scalding her partner with boiling water from a kettle, holding him against a piping-hot radiator, whipping him with curtain wire, or branding him with a heated cigarette lighter.

During her evidence, Miss Nicholls said her 24-year-old brother had also attacked slightly-built Mr Gardner’s ribs when he stuck up for her during arguments they had.

She said Mr Nicholls punched her partner and held him down so she could attack him, but denied implicating him in revenge after learning he blamed her in police interviews.

Miss Nicholls said she lied during her interviews because she was scared, but insisted she was now telling the jury the truth.

In a tense question and answer session, Mr Hill said: “You really have no regard for anyone but yourself, do you?

You are prepared to say anything about anybody if you think it helps you.”

She replied: “I am just telling you the truth today, because it’s the truth.”

Earlier she told the jury: “I was frightened in the beginning and that’s why I could not tell the truth. Today, I knew I had to and wanted to.”

Mr Hill countered: “Because your brother dared to be disloyal in his interviews, you are trying to drag him down with you.” She replied: “I am certainly not here to do that.”

Miss Nicholls blamed Mr Martin for burning Mr Gardner with boiling water, a lighter and on the radiator, and for scratching him with keys, and hitting him “on many occasions”.

The Nicholls and Mr Martin, all of Arthur Street, Chilton, County Durham, deny murder, and the case is expected to continue today with Miss Nicholls being cross-examined.

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