A ‘BESOTTED’ ex-boyfriend has been cleared of the attempted murder of his first girlfriend after claiming an alleged knife attack was a failed suicide bid and he ‘fell’ on the woman.
Harry Middleton has been on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court since Monday accused of an attack on his ex-partner, 21-year-old Louise Brindley, with a 2.5in tomato knife leaving her with six wounds and a cut thumb and finger.
Jurors cleared University of Chichester student Mr Middleton in just two hours today - returning not guilty verdicts on the attempted murder charge and the two alternatives of wounding with intent and wounding.
The 21-year-old burst into tears as family members gasped in the public gallery when the third verdict was announced and deputy High Court judge Mr Justice Neil Garnham called for quiet in the courtroom.
Mr Justice Garnham imposed a five-year restraining order banning him from contacting Miss Brindley in anyway following the acquittal.
Mr Middleton’s four-day trial saw CCTV of him and trainee teacher Miss Brindley at the Wimpy kitchen at Hayling Island’s Funland, where Mr Middleton had been working preparing food and Miss Brindley was working as an elf at the Santa’s Grotto on the floor above.
Now Mr Middleton, who had been described as ‘a gentle, timid guy’, has been released from custody after serving nearly six months on remand since the November 24 incident last year.
Jurors heard the pair had been in a summer romance with Middleton, who had been diagnosed and medicated for depression, taking her to see Matilda for her 21st birthday.
The court heard Mr Middleton had become ‘besotted’ with Miss Brindley and had spent a ‘great deal of money’ on her birthday despite admitting to drinking too much at university and not paying rent - and struggling to raise cash for his family while his mother suffered with a brain tumour.
Mr Middleton ‘spammed her’ with messages when they split – saying he would kill himself and could not live without Miss Brindley. They split in the last week of August when Miss Brindley focused on her post-graduate certificate of education course.
They clashed when she told Mr Middleton she could not see him as she was having her nails done for graduation and he said: ‘If you’ve got your nails done you’ve got time to see me I think I should be almost more a priority.’
Apart from a chance meeting in Chichester - where he wept after speaking to her - they saw each other for the first time in the Wimpy on November 24.
Jurors heard she asked him to look after her keys so they did not fall out her elf costume at the Winter Wonderland and ‘ruin the magic’ for the children.
When she went to collect them at just before 3.30pm he broke down and wept, they cuddled and at her suggestion went into a store room together.
Inside, he pulled a blade out of his back pocket while handing her keys back - with prosecutors alleging what followed was an attempted murder.
But this week Mr Middleton said he had been chopping vegetables for salad and resolved to die by suicide, having selected and tested the knife’s sharpness.
He told jurors: ‘Louise triggered me to start thinking about things of the relationship we had, meeting at the fair, it brought up all these old feelings and memories.’
Answering questions put to him by his defence barrister Sarah Jones QC, Mr Middleton, who moved from Canada to Britain in 2009, added: ‘At that point telling her everything it sort of made me think “yeah, I’m ready to take my own life”.’
Giving evidence on Tuesday he said she had been ‘flirty’ and commented on his muscles and a necklace he was wearing. She told jurors she thought it was ‘weird’ he bumped into her in the kitchen - something they used to do before they dated.
Later the same day the pair hugged as he wept and ‘teared up,’ he told jurors, moving to a small store room where she wiped away his tears.
Crying as he gave evidence, he said: ‘I was bringing the knife out to use on myself. Louise pulled her car keys away from me and since I didn’t expect her to move her hand away I sort of fell forwards into her.’
Mr Justice Garnham commended two Wimpy workers, Tylier Murdoch and Natalie Page, who rushed into the store room and tried to prise the knife out of Mr Middleton’s hands. He said he kept hold of it as he still wanted to kill himself.
Before sending the jury out to consider their verdicts the judge warned them: ‘As one of counsel remarked, we do not sit here as a court of morals and this is not The Jeremy Kyle Show.’
Mr Middleton had denied attempted murder and an alternative charge of wounding with intent.