22nd Sep, 2018

Woman in 'toxic relationship' who stabbed Warwick University student avoids jail

A ‘vulnerable young woman’ in a ‘toxic relationship’ with a university student has walked free from court after slashing his face and lunging at his chest with a large kitchen knife.

Luckily Warwick University security officers, whose body cameras recorded the horrific incident, had disarmed Stephanie Roberts before she could cause more serious injuries.

Roberts (20) of Wetherby Gardens, South Kensington, London, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to wounding Ravi Benitez with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm.

She was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years, with a rehabilitation activity, and given a restraining order banning her from having any contact with Mr Benitez.

Prosecutor Steven Bailey said: “The two parties had known each-other for some time, and she said he was controlling and gave her prescription drugs, Xanax.”

In November last year Mr Benitex was a student at Warwick University, living in halls of residence, where Roberts continued to visit him.

On the evening of the incident they were out with friends when there was an altercation during which Roberts hit him, and when they returned to the halls of residence things were at such a pitch that he locked himself in his room.

Roberts, who had borrowed his phone to call her father, armed herself with a large knife with a seven-inch blade from the kitchen and slashed at the door to his room before gaining entry.

Security officers had been called by another student, and as they stood in the doorway trying to calm Roberts down, their body cameras recorded her actions and comments.

The recording began with Roberts leaning against the back of a chair and tapping the knife against it as she complained that Mr Benitez had ‘emotionally manipulated’ her.

Talking to her father with the phone on speaker, she said she was not going to kill herself, telling him: “I would rather kill the person who f***ed my life up. I know perfectly well what I’m doing.”

Mr Benitez tried to calm her down, but Roberts, who sat crying in the dock with her hands over her ears as the recording was played, told him: “I’m not emotional. I’m letting things out. You tried to possess me.”

Turning towards the phone, which was sitting on a desk, she told her father: “If you knew what was happening to me, you would come and get me right now, as a father.

“You need to get me before I kill him, you need to get me right now. Do you understand me? You come and get me right now.”

Something is said to her, and Robert, who is clearly distraught, responds: “I don’t want to kill myself, it’s someone else. You come here right now, or it’s the end.”

Brandishing the knife, Roberts walks across the room and sits on the edge of the bed, as Mr Benitez pleads with her: “Oh please, Steph, please go away.”

One of the security officers asks her to step back and hand him the knife, telling her: “No, don’t, you’ll make it a hell of a lot worse.”

Roberts wards them off by pointing the knife at them, then as her father tells her to put the knife down, she responds: “I’m going to go and kill Ravi, is that OK?”

She then lashes out with the knife, slashing Mr Benitez to the face and to his hand twice as he tries to protect himself, telling him: “You liar, you liar. You lied to me, you liar.”

He tries to get up from the bed, but shrinks back as she threatens him with the knife to prevent him from doing so.

She then changes her grip to what Mr Bailey described as ‘the classic stabbing grip,’ and lunges across the bed at Mr Benitez’s chest, but fortunately does not make contact.

And at that point the security officers rush forward and overpower and disarm her.

Mr Bailey said that as a result of the attack Mr Benitez had deep wounds to his cheek and index finger, and a nick to his nose – and his injuries affected his studies.

But he had refused to attend court to give evidence in what was to have been a ‘trial of issue’ over allegations Roberts had made against him in her basis of plea.

Adam Western, defending, said there was a psychiatric report on Roberts, and argued that it ‘would not be in the interests of justice’ to follow sentencing guidelines for wounding with intent, in view of the basis of plea.

“This is an emotionally vulnerable young woman who has been the subject of an abusive relationship for five years. She had been subject to controlling behaviour and isolated from her friends. She says he manipulated her entirely.

“He was medicating her with prescription drugs. The effect of those was to make her even more vulnerable.

“Since this, she has been receiving counselling. She is described as an intelligent young woman of integrity and charm. Your Honour can be assured she will never re-offend,” he added.

Sentencing Roberts, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: “It was a very, very dangerous way to behave, because if you take out a knife when you are distressed and angry and have had a lot to drink, you can cause very serious injuries indeed. Both he and you are very fortunate you did not do so on this occasion.

“Your circumstances had pushed you to the limit, and the combination of drink and drugs that had been supplied to you by him that night were sufficient to push you over the edge.”

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