Chip shop owner 'killed wife with burning oil' from deep fat fryer

Swansea Crown Court
Swansea Crown Court
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A husband burned his wife of 30 years to death at their chip shop by pouring scalding hot cooking oil over her, a court has heard.

Geoffrey Bran, 71, allegedly murdered his wife Mavis Bran, 69, with a deep fat fryer at the Chipoteria in Hermon, Carmarthenshire, following arguments between the pair.

Swansea Crown Court was today told Mrs Bran suffered severe burns to her body after her husband allegedly pushed or threw one of three fryers on top of her.

Mrs Bran died in hospital six days after the alleged incident in Wales in October last year.

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Prosecutor Paul Lewis QC said: "It is the prosecution case in a nutshell that the terrible burns Mrs Bran suffered were not the result of an accident, but were caused by her husband deliberately pushing or throwing over her a deep fat fryer which contained scalding oil."

The couple, who had no children together, owned a small number of commercial proprieties and businesses around South Wales.

They opened the Chipoteria together in January last year in a cabin situated next to their home in the small West Wales village.

The court heard financial pressures of their various businesses would sometimes put strain on their marriage, leading to arguments about money.

People who knew the couple were said to have described them as having "short tempers" and "always argued, swearing and shouting at each other".

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Mr Lewis said in the months leading up to her death a friend of Mrs Bran had noticed their relationship had been "deteriorating", with Mrs Bran phoning the friend in tears saying "he's getting nasty".

Gareth Davies, another friend of the couple who lived with them, said on the afternoon of 23 October last year Mrs Bran returned home naked from the waist up shouting "I've been burned" and "I've had boiling hot fat all over me".

He described her upper body as "crimson" and that her skin was peeling off her wrists.

Despite her injuries Mrs Bran told Mr Davies to fetch more fish for customers and declined an ambulance.

Bran, who was sporting a cut above his eye, told Mr Davies his wife had been cooking fish when she slipped and grabbed the fryer, causing it to come out of the holder and spill over her.

But Mrs Bran's friend Caroline Morgan said she received a call from her around 1:15pm in which Mrs Bran screamed: "Geoff has thrown boiling oil over me. Please get here, I need you now, help."

Miss Morgan said she found Mrs Bran "shocked" and "shaking" and told Mr Davies to call for an ambulance, before telling Bran, who was still serving customers, to shut the chip shop.

Mrs Bran allegedly told Miss Morgan of her husband: "I was nagging him and he flipped."

She was taken by air ambulance to the burns unit at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, where doctors found she had suffered burns to 46 per cent of her body.

Mrs Bran later developed sepsis and hypothermia and underwent surgery to remove some of her burned skin, but died from multi-organ failure at the hospital six days after the alleged attack.

Bran was initially arrested on suspicion of assault and denied attacking his wife, telling police: "She got burned with the chip fryer. She slipped and it came off the top and went over her. Don't ask."

A nurse found he had a superficial cut to the front of his head and to the front of his neck, as well as a scuff abrasion to his right forearm.

He later said in interview his wife had become "upset and agitated" because a fryer in their van was dirty and she became angry at him because four fish had been spoiled, before adding: "She can lose all reason."

The accused said his wife threw the spoiled fish in a temper, causing hot fat to fly through the air and lead to her pulling the fryer unit down on top of herself.

Bran, from Hermon, denies murder.

The trial continues.