WHAT goes on behind closed doors can sometimes prove fatal for family life and so it was in the case of Robin Dyke and his wife Jane in the late summer of 1994.

At the time Dyke was an unemployed labourer, while his wife had been working as a cleaner at Safeway supermarket in Kidderminster, yet they had racked up nearly £20,000 worth of debt (around £38,000 today), much of which, it was claimed, was through Mrs Dyke’s addiction to drink.

Matters came to a head one evening in September 1994 when Jane Dyke demanded money from her husband so she could go out with friends. He refused and a violent row ensued. It ended with her dead on the floor and Dyke frantically ringing 999 for help.

A  tape of the call was played to the jury at Stafford Crown Court in December 1995 when Dyke pleaded not guilty to strangling his wife.

On the recording he could be heard saying to someone in the background: “I tried every which way I could. I can’t try any other way. She wanted to go out, she wanted to go out.”

Robin and Jane Dyke had lived in Cobham Road, Kidderminster for 13 years and been married for 15. By 1994 they had three children, then aged 13, 10 and six.

Neighbours told the court that on the fateful night they overheard a heated row between the couple.

However, Dyke claimed he could remember nothing about the attack, other than sitting astride the lifeless body of his wife.

He was found by police to have scratches on his neck, face, chest and scrotum. His ripped underpants were later recovered from a bedroom. The prosecution claimed the injuries were caused by Mrs Dyke as she struggled on the floor in her efforts to stop him strangling her.

But defence counsel Franz Muller QC claimed Mrs Dyke had scratched her husband’s testicles and bruised him during a previous row over money.

As the case progressed, some of the tensions in the Dyke’s marriage came to light.

Terence Holland, then head teacher of Windmill Hill Middle School, Stourport, said Dyke had visited him in a distressed state in the summer of 1994 when he was deputy head at Birchen Coppice Middle School, Kidderminster, as the father was concerned about his children. 

Mr Holland added: “He seemed agitated and concerned and the things he was talking about confirmed this. He was clearly seeking help and that is why he came to see me.

"It appeared he did not really know where help could be found. He was clearly frustrated with his efforts to solve the family’s obvious problems.”

Heather Cross, headteacher of Foley Part First School, Kidderminster told the court she had been visited by Dyke in similar circumstances.

The jury eventually found Dyke not guilty of murder, but convicted him of manslaughter and Mr Justice Latham imposed a three-and-a-half year jail term.

The judge described it as a “merciful” sentence, so Dyke would be released in time to take “a sensible part” in the upbringing of his children.

However, Jane Dyke’s relatives did not see it that way.

Her brother-in-law David Taylor, the husband of Jane’s sister Jackie, said: “It’s hard to accept the taking of a human life is only worth three-and-a-half years. This will probably be halved to 21 months in jail and he has already been in custody on remand for 14 months.

“Although we consider the on-going welfare of the children was rightly taken into account, we feel the total package of the marriage did not emerge at the trial due to the rules of hearsay evidence.”

Some things, it appeared, do stay behind closed doors.