What could push a woman, a doting wife and mother, to murder the man she married? Money? Revenge? Infidelity? Sometimes. For others, it’s the dark, violent secret they’ve been hiding for years that finally makes them snap....
Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a mental disorder that can develop in victims of domestic violence. Sufferers become petrified to leave their abuser, which can deeply affect their mental state. And, for a few, the relentless abuse gets too much to bear. They can only see one way out. The death of their abuser. Even if that means taking a life with their own hands…
Canada: Nicole Ryan
Mike Ryan was lucky to be alive.
A hit man had been hired to kill him.
Fortunately for Mike, police intervened before anything fatal happened.
Though Mike had escaped death, he now faced a battle to see the person who’d plotted his murder sent to prison.
His wife, Nicole.
She’d paid a hit man $25,000 (approximately £16,000) to do the deadly deed.
But when he did a runner with the cash, she looked for someone else to carry out the crime.
Unbeknown to Nicole, the man she hired was an undercover police officer.
Handing over pictures of Mike, she explained she wanted him dead.
Nicole, a school teacher, was quickly arrested and charged with counseling to commit murder.
Some believed she wanted Mike dead to claim a large inheritance.
But Nicole insisted she had no choice but to have her ex-soldier husband killed.
She feared for her life and that of their daughter.
Nicole claimed Mike had been violent and threatening for nearly all of the 15 years they were together.
She swore that he put a gun to her head, squeezed her throat and pinned her against the wall.
And also said he’d threatened to kill her and their daughter and burn their house down.
Nicole’s lawyers protested she’d contacted police at least nine times seeking protection.
But prosecutors argued the couple had already separated by the time she hired a hit man.
That Mike was already in a new relationship.
So, was the plot to kill Mike motivated by jealousy?
In January 2013, after five years of court cases and crown appeals, Nicole was finally cleared of the crime and spared jail.
One man not happy with the result was her husband, Mike.
In an interview after the trial, he said: ‘I’ve been painted a monster, just because she’s trying to get herself out of hot water. The allegations are completely false.’
USA: Barbara Sheehan
To the outside world, Barbara Sheehan had it all.
She doted on her children, Jennifer and Raymond Jnr.
And her husband, Raymond, a former policeman, was a pillar of the local community.
So why, in February 2008, was Raymond, 48, shot dead in his bathroom while he shaved?
Barbara was quick to admit she’d pulled the trigger. Not once, not twice. But 11 times.
Barbara claimed she’d suffered violence and abuse during her 24-year marriage.
She explained her husband had once smashed her head against a wall during a holiday in Jamaica in 2007. Jennifer and Raymond Jnr took to the stand to defend their mother, too, claiming their father was a violent bully.
The day before the shooting, Barbara and her husband had an argument.
It was the final straw, and she packed her things to leave – including one of her husband’s guns for protection.
Raymond Snr was shaving at the time and saw her take the weapon.
Barbara claims he reached for another gun and aimed it at her.
So she started firing.
‘I fired it until I didn’t feel threatened any more,’ she said.
But the prosecution said she’d executed her husband because she was miserable, in a sexless marriage.
Members of Raymond Snr’s family maintained Barbara wasn’t the victim.
‘She took the life of Raymond Sheehan, the only victim,’ they said.
Nonetheless, the jury acquitted Barbara Sheehan, then 51, of murder. She too was spared jail.
Australia: Susan Falls
In May 2006, Rodney Falls, 41, was enjoying his favourite meal – a prawn curry, prepared by his wife, Susan, 42.
But soon he was hit by extreme tiredness.
Then, suddenly, Susan pointed a gun at him, shooting him in front of their two daughters.
Not dead yet, Susan fired another bullet into his head to finish him off.
But why had Susan wanted her husband dead?
In court, her legal team used the ‘battered woman defence’ in an attempt to clear her of murder. That she was the real victim here.
Susan claimed the violence began before they were married.
She said that after more than 20 years of beatings, it all got too much when Rodney threatened to kill one of their daughters.
She claimed he wrote the names of family members on paper and said he’d kill whoever she picked.
‘He pushed my head down on the table and said “pick one’’,’ Susan said.
Believing Rodney would carry out the threat, Susan became desperate. She gave her 16-year-old daughter money to buy a gun with a silencer.
Then, after lacing Rodney’s curry with sleeping tablets, she shot him.
She left her husband’s dead body in the house for three days, then hired three men to help her dispose of it.
They dumped Rodney’s body in a forest, before it was later discovered.
Susan confessed to police, but insisted she acted in self-defence.
Prosecutors described it as a cunning, calculated murder.
But Susan walked away free in June 2010 when she was cleared of murder and manslaughter.
In an interview after the trial, Susan said: ‘He forced me, he pushed me, he gave me no choice.’