Arnold Shawn Astwood
Arnold Shawn Astwood
'Get out of abusive relationships before it's too late' was the message from a judge yesterday as he sent serial woman beater Arnold Astwood to jail for 14 years.

Arnold Shawn Astwood had previously admitted killing his girlfriend, Ruth Binns, after the pair got into an argument at her Southampton home. However, he denied murder, saying that an existing medical condition was responsible for Ms Binns' death.

Supreme Court heard yesterday that Astwood, 36, had a long history of violence towards women. He had five previous convictions for assault, four of which were against two separate women.

A pathologist report said Ms Binns, 26, suffered from breathing difficulties caused by an existing enlarged thyroid. When she was attacked by Mr. Astwood the extra pressure on her neck proved fatal, the report said. Jailing Mr. Astwood for manslaughter, Justice Carlisle Greaves said all of Bermuda should be deeply troubled by the facts of the case. He said as a child he heard women in his household say that a man who hits you once will hit you again.

"There is wisdom in that," he said to a court full of weeping members of both families. "Sadly our ladies are not listening. Each time you forgive, or excuse or go on to love him more you embolden him to repeat the behaviour. Until you or he may die at the hands of the other."

The killer, of Green Acres Road, Devonshire, admitted he had been drinking before he went to Ms Binns' Camp Hill home around 10pm. He told police they argued about a woman's number on his cell phone; she slapped him and he pushed her back.

Official reports said Ms Binns died from pressure applied to an enlarged thyroid gland in her neck. However, she also had bruises around her lips and eyes consistent with being hit in the face several times. Mr. Astwood was later arrested at another girlfriend's house. Defence lawyer Charles Richardson told the court his client did not mean to kill Ms Binns and said he had shown remorse for the attack. Mr. Richardson suggested a four to six year jail term.

Director of public prosecutions Rory Field suggested the jail term should be 10 to 12 years. However, Justice Greaves said he was minded to pass a greater sentence than either man suggested before sending Mr. Astwood to Westgate for 14 years.

Mr. Richardson had previously said outside court that the case was complicated because of Ms Binns' existing medical condition. He said: "Yes, it is being said that there was some violence, but it was the garden variety sort of fight, not extreme violence."

He said that while people were aware of Ms Binns' medical condition, "nobody ever guessed" it could kill her.