R v Ahluwalia

R v Ahluwalia (1993) 96 Cr App R 133

On 9th May 1989, after enduring many years of violence and humiliation from her husband, the appellant, Ahluwalia, threw some petrol in his bedroom, lit a stick from a candle she was holding and threw that also into the room.

Her husband sustained severe burns and died after six days.

She was charged with his murder.

The defence case was that she did not intend seriously to harm her husband, but only to inflict some pain. Relying on the history of ill treatment throughout the marriage, provocation was also taken as a second line of defence.

The defence therefore sought a verdict of manslaughter, but the jury returned one of murder.

Crown Court at Lewes convicted her of murder. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ahluwalia appealed.

The appeal was allowed and the conviction of the murder quashed and a retrial ordered.


Ahluwalia was born in India to a middle class family. She completed an Arts Degree and then began a law course, but came under pressure from her family to marry.

Deceased came from a family of Kenyan Asian who had emigrated in 1971.

Ahluwalia went to Canada to stay with her brother and sister-in-law. A marriage was arranged between her and the deceased. They had not previously met. The marriage took place in Canada. They then came to England and settled in Crawley. Both had jobs. Two boys were born to them. One in July 1984 and one in January 1986. He was a big man and she was slight.

There was a whole history of ill treatment throughout the marriage to her culminating in the night of the incident: the deceased’s refusal to talk to her, his threat to use the hot iron on her, his threat to beat her the next morning if she did not provide him with money and his clear indication that he wished the marriage to end.

Ahluwalia did not give evidence. No medical evidence was adduced on her behalf.