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Guilty: Newbury man John MacGregor convicted of non-fatal strangulation

A WOMAN has told how she was convinced she was being murdered as her husband throttled her.

Janet MacGregor said her vision blurred and she couldn’t breathe before her 6ft 4ins estranged husband relented and instead flung her across the room like a rag doll.

John MacGregor
John MacGregor

She told a court: “He launched himself at me... it was lightning quick.

“The pressure on my neck was crushing... I knew he meant to kill me.”

Mrs MacGregor fled the pair’s Newbury home and was found by a couple driving past, sobbing and with livid marks round her neck.

In the dock at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, January 30, was 57-year-old former RAF engineer and retired AWE Aldermaston employee John Stephen MacGregor.

John MacGregor
John MacGregor

Mr MacGregor, who was living at Railway Road, Newbury, denied intentionally strangling his wife on August 31 last year, claiming it was she who had launched herself at him.

The specific offence of non-fatal strangulation came into law in June 2022.

The court heard the couple were divorcing after 10 years of marriage and, on the evening in question, a domestic row erupted into violence when Mr MacGregor, a former chorister at St Nicolas’ Church in Newbury, attacked his wife.

Giving evidence, Mrs MacGregor said her husband’s eyes appeared to turn black during the attack.

After strangling her, she said he had picked her up and hurled her across the room into a door, where she smashed her head.

Mrs MacGregor added: “I thought I was going to die.

“He said: ‘You see what happens when you mess with me – don’t mess with me.’”

She fled the home and ran down the road where passing strangers found her, sobbing and hysterical.

They gave evidence that Mrs MacGregor told them her husband had strangled her and that they saw livid red finger marks round her throat.

Cross examined by Patrick Wise-Walsh, defence barrister for Mr MacGregor, Mrs MacGregor accepted that she had sent another woman text messages stating she hated her husband “with a passion” and wanted to ruin his life.

Taking the witness stand, Mr MacGregor denied attacking his wife, claiming it was she who had launched herself at him.

He had merely put his hands out to protect himself and keep her away, he told the court.

Cross-examined by Amandeep Purewal, prosecuting, Mr Macgregor said he did not know how the red marks came to be around his wife’s neck.

Mr MacGregor said: “I can’t swear my fingers didn’t go towards her throat; what I can say is I didn’t put my hands around her throat.

“I didn’t strangle Janet.”

Mr Wise-Walsh said his client was “not some raging hulk” as he had been portrayed.

He handed in several character references from former colleagues of Mr MacGregor including one from the Royal Air Force and one from a military underwater defence project who said: “His contribution to his country’s defence is a credit to him.”

District judge Dharmesh Patel said he was not convinced Mrs MacGregor was lying because of a “vendetta to ruin Mr MacGregor’s life” and added it was not unusual for there to be considerable acrimony between parties during divorce proceedings.

He said no other credible explanation had been given for the marks round Mrs MacGregor’s neck and that she had given the same account to police and to the couple who found her in the street as she had in court.

He found the case proved.

Judge Patel said sentencing guidelines put the starting point at 18 months’ custody and, consequently, his own powers of punishment, in a magistrates’ court, were potentially insufficient.

He therefore sent the case to Reading Crown Court on a date to be fixed and ordered pre-sentence reports to be prepared on an ‘all options’ basis.

Mr MacGregor was meanwhile released on bail with conditions.

Afterwards, Mrs MacGregor praised Thames Valley Police for the way they handled her case.

The former PA in the investment banking business said there had been times when she had found the prospect of seeing the matter through daunting.

But she added: “At the end of the day I’m 100 per cent glad I did.”

Janet and John MacGregor in happier times
Janet and John MacGregor in happier times

Mrs MacGregor went on: “The police said to me very early on that if I went to court I could show other women who had suffered domestic violence that it was possible to win.

“No one should have to put up with domestic violence.

“I must say that the police officers who dealt with my case were fantastic.”

Mrs MacGregor, who also ran her own cleaning company until she retired in 2022, had praise, too, for the domestic violence charity Berkshire Women’s Aid.

She said: “The police put me in touch with them and they were amazing; they were extremely supportive and were on the phone to me virtually every day.”

Berkshire Women’s Aid can be contacted via the hotline number 0808 801 0882 or via email at helpdesk@bwaid.org.uk

The website is at https://www.berkshirewomensaid.org.uk/

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