A MAN who attacked his former partner so violently that she is still in a coma eight months later was jailed for eight years yesterday.
But Paul Northey, 39, could yet be sentenced for murder should his victim, Kathryn Cook, have her life support machine switched off.
Northey was sentenced yesterday to the lesser charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, a charge he had admitted at an earlier hearing.
Durham Crown Court was told that Ms Cook, 44, is unlikely to resume consciousness after she was found lying on her bed with a severe head injury by her 10-year-old daughter Rebecca at their home in Penshaw Gardens, Stanley, County Durham, on June 25 last year.
Rebecca, who the court heard used to cower in a corner of the house when her mother and Northey had violent arguments, ran to her grandparents nearby to tell them she could not wake her mother.
Amanda Rippon, prosecuting, said Northey, who lived nearby in Wylam Road, Stanley, and Ms Cook had a volatile relationship.
Northey would attack her by tearing hair from her head, and when police examined the crime scene after Ms Cook was found badly injured, they found clumps of hair in her bedroom and also in Rebecca’s, from what Ms Rippon described as a sustained attack.
Although the couple had split up after a seven-year relationship, Ms Rippon said they would still meet secretly.
Neighbours said Ms Cook, an alcoholic, still loved Northey, despite his violence, Ms Rippon told the court.
On the afternoon Northey attacked her, they had met in nearby woods, but had gone back to her house when it began to rain.
Since his arrest, Northey has refused to say whether he used a weapon to attack Ms Cook. Sentencing him the judge, Richard Lowden, described his remorse as very limited.
Afterwards, the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Mick Callan, said Durham Police would certainly not rule out charging Northey with the killing of Ms Cook should her life support machine be switched off at Bishop Auckland General Hospital, although he added: “The final decision would rest with the Crown Prosecution Service.”
Her parents, Philip and Kathleen, both 69, visit her hospital bedside every day. Rebecca also visits on weekends.
Kathleen Cook said: “We are hoping and praying that one day she will recover. There have been signs of improvement. There are times she starts to open her left eye but her right eye remains closed.
“We all talk to her and she can sometimes manage to respond with a squeeze from her left hand, particularly when it’s Rebecca.”
“Kathryn has always been a caring friendly woman, totally devoted to her daughter. The whole family remain devastated by what happened.
“One day Northey will come out of prison and get his life back. When will Kathryn get her life back to normal? The medical staff at the hospital can’t tell us if that will ever happen.
“The big threat comes from the infections she gets as she lies there immobile in bed,” added Mrs Cook.
Before the attack Kathryn had been working part-time with her mum in the laundry at the Beamish Park Hotel. Three days before she was found by Rebecca the family had returned from a holiday on the Costa del Sol.