08 October 2020

Son who decapitated mother and placed head in freezer jailed for life

A cross-dressing songwriter has been jailed for life for stabbing his mother to death before decapitating her and placing her head in the freezer while in the grip of a drug-induced psychosis.

Philip Tarver, 47, had taken cocaine and drunk beer and vodka before he attacked 86-year-old Angela Tarver with an ornamental sword.

He then threatened his 83-year-old father Colin with the blade on the morning of December 19 last year, although the pensioner was able to disarm his son and call 999.

Philip Tarver court case (PA Media)

Before the police arrived at the family home in Woking, Surrey, Tarver cut off his mother’s head with a kitchen knife and placed it in the freezer.

He also severed her ring finger and placed it inside the kettle.

When officers arrived, Tarver, wearing a woman’s floral negligee, answered the front door waving a Union flag and holding a knife, telling officers: “I surrender, I surrender.”

Tarver denied any wrongdoing, and instead tried to blame his father, claiming it was a financially motivated killing to cash in on an inheritance.

During his trial, the Old Bailey heard that unemployed Tarver had lived with his parents all his life and that they supported him financially.

The court heard he was a heavy drinker, who regularly drank as much as six cans of beer a night as well as spirits, and would often spend the money his parents gave him on cannabis and cocaine.

The jury was told that, for several years, Tarver had been questioning his gender identity and often wore women’s clothing.

Three separate psychiatrists agreed that he had no underlying mental health disorder, but that he had been in the grip of psychosis brought on by cannabis and cocaine on the night he killed his mother.

Jailing him for life with a minimum term of 19 years on Thursday, Judge Anne Molyneux QC described the killing as “a tragedy” but accepted that Tarver would not have harmed his mother if he had not been in a state of acute psychosis.

But she said: “(The psychosis) was not caused by alcohol.

“It was induced by your voluntary consumption of prohibited drugs – this means that a verdict of manslaughter by diminished responsibility was not afforded to you.”

She also sentenced him to 18 months’ imprisonment for making threats to kill his father to run concurrently to his sentence for murder.

Colin Tarver said in a victim impact statement: “I have lost my best friend and the love of my life, she was the light of my life and now that light has gone out, cruelly extinguished.”

He described his anguish at his son’s decision to try and pin the killing on him, saying: “There have been nights where I have been unable to sleep and have lain awake replaying the accusations that have been made towards me wondering what on earth I could have done to make Philip say those things about me.”

He thanked the jury, some of whom had returned for the sentencing hearing, saying: “(The jury) have had to listen to and view evidence that would have been unpleasant for them to hear and see.

“I am truly thankful for their forbearance and patience.”

Mrs Tarver had suffered a severe stroke in 1991 which affected her mobility and speech.

Tarver, who had trained as a clock maker, had long stints of unemployment but had tried to pursue his love of music and song writing.

On the morning of the killing, he behaved strangely, claiming his beer was “poisoned” before unplugging the phone, television and computer.

His father had been busy trying to reconnect all the devices so he and his wife could watch Bargain Hunt when Tarver attacked her in the kitchen as she was having a cup of tea.

Following his arrest, the defendant heard his father talking to police and remarked: “Oh, of course, his wife. His wife is in the freezer.”

At the police station, he said he was “sorry for killing her”, adding that he “must repent my sins”.

Tarver was not present in court but followed the proceedings via videolink from Belmarsh Prison.

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