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Executive who branded wife with iron freed with a £2,000 fine
By BETH HALE, EMILY ANDREWS and COLIN FERNANDEZ – Last updated at 11:25am on 21st August 2007
A management consultant branded his wife with a hot steam iron because she had failed to press his shirt.
Cambridge graduate Colin Read, 25, also slashed her with a knife because she had forgotten to make his sandwiches.
But the £90,000-a-year executive walked free from court – with just a £2,000 fine.
His wife Elizabeth, also 25, sat quietly in the corner of the courtroom at Southwark Crown Court as he indicated he could pay the fine within 28 days.
He was spared even a community punishment because the judge ruled that "special circumstances" suggested he was unlikely to reoffend and his job meant he was too "busy" to find the time to complete any order.
His wife, a medical student who has now filed for divorce, had been so frightened of him that she had to be compelled to give evidence in a three-day trial which ended in her husband being convicted of three counts of causing actual bodily harm.
Mrs Read, who has reverted to her maiden name Axe, said she had been expecting at the very least to see Read given a suspended sentence.
"A fine is not really a deterrent," she said. "People might think they can do whatever they want, pay a few pounds and it’s all over."
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Domestic violence destroys lives and kills two women in England and Wales every week.
"A fine is not an adequate sentence for this abhorrent crime."
Judith Stephenson, of Women’s Aid, said: "This case is extremely worrying. It takes an enormous amount of courage for a woman to go to court and this sentence may deter other women from doing so."
The couple had met as students at Cambridge in 2003, where he studied engineering and rowed for his college, Magdalene, and she was a sciences student at Downing.
Later they moved to London, where she began medical training at King’s College and is now in her second year. They moved into a flat in Herne Hill and married in June 2006.
Read began working for management consultancy LEK Consulting in 2005 and was soon reaping the financial rewards.
But he put in 17-hour days and his moods darkened whenever he returned home. Violence began three months after their marriage.
The first attack came on September 19 when he returned home in the small hours and found his wife had not prepared his sandwiches for the next day.
Enraged, he slashed her foot with a knife as she lay sleeping. When she complained, Read responded by beating her with his fists.
A day later she tried to speak to him about what happened. He beat her again.
Eight days later, even worse was to follow. Read complained that a shirt printed with palm trees that he needed for a corporate "beach party" function was apparently unironed.
He lashed out again, branding his wife twice on the back with the iron. He pressed so hard that the iron’s steam holes were burnt into her flesh.
Too scared to even call a doctor, Mrs Read simply stood under a cold shower for half an hour and then attended lectures as normal.
Police were called only after a friend alerted officers. Read was arrested within days.
Although Mrs Read told them what happened, she still had to be summonsed to give evidence at her husband’s trial.
Read told police that his wife was "self-harming". Later, he claimed it was "possible" he had attacked her but he "couldn’t remember".
Yesterday he walked free from court with his mother at his side after a judge decided not to jail him.
A report recommended a community service order, but Recorder William Featherby questioned how Read would fit it in around his long working hours.
He said he was concerned that Read had denied the offences despite overwhelming evidence and he called the iron attack "appalling".
But the judge said it was the circumstances of the marriage that had provoked Read and that now those circumstances had gone, sending him to prison would "help no one".
A police source expressed dismay at the sentence, saying there needed to be "stronger deterrents".
Last night Mrs Read said: "We had a few problems because he worked very long hours and we didn’t see each other very much.
"He would never get back before 8 or 9pm and sometimes it would be the next morning."
She said there had been several arguments before the first attack over his unmade sandwiches, but she was determined to make a go of the marriage and hoped the incident was a one-off.
After the second attack she went to stay with a friend, only to return to the third and most brutal attack with the iron.
Mrs Read struggled to talk about the incident, saying "it was pretty painful".
"I had a cold shower and had to sleep on my front for a few days," she said. "The marks were there for a month or two and I had some funny looks at the gym."
She added: "I didn’t really want to go to court. Now with the sentence the way it was, it doesn’t really seem there was much point."