Former Bognor Regis PCSO threatened to kill his wife and hide her body
A Bognor Regis PCSO who belittled, smacked and controlled his wife ‘chillingly’ threatened to kill her and hide the body, a court heard.
Joshua Fitzjohn has been spared jail after he ‘controlled’ his younger wife – once pinning her against a wall in their home while armed with a hammer.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard on Friday the 28-year-old would boast to neighbours telling them he was a ‘police officer’ and revel in telling about incidents he attended.
But behind closed doors he ‘petrified’ his 24-year-old wife threatening to punch her, forcing her to ask permission to see friends, and enforcing a ‘curfew’.
Army veteran Fitzjohn, of Redwing Court, Milton, Portsmouth, was ‘verbally abusive pretty much on a daily basis,’ prosecutor Alejandra Tascon said.
She added: ‘His day job was working as a police community support officer for Sussex police but when he got home he belittled and controlled his wife.’
The victim suffered for three years at their homes in Fratton and Havant until June 18 in 2020 when Hampshire police arrested Fitzjohn at Chichester police station where he was on duty as a PCSO.
‘She felt that nobody would believe her because her husband was a police community support officer,’ Ms Tascon said.
The brave victim eventually took to recording her husband’s outbursts so that she would have proof of his repeated abuse.
In one recording he said: ‘I’ll break everything you’ve got, I’ll destroy everything you’ve got and then I’ll get rid of you, or we can just get along - what do you want? What do you want? I’m happy to get along with you.’
When she said she would call the police, he said: ‘Crack on, civil matter, nothing to do with the police. I tell you, you now, you want to start wars? We’ll go, we’ll go to war.’
She still suffers anxiety with a PTSD diagnosis and seizures brought on by the abuse he perpetrated.
“At this stage... I’m struggling to feel comfortable in my own home,” she said in a statement.
Sentencing, Recorder Michael Bromley-Martin QC said: “You subjected her to a litany of acts of coercion and controlling behaviour along with petty violence and, more seriously, threats of serious violence including threats to kill her.
“Chillingly and terrifyingly for her you sometimes added that they would never find her body but the only thing that can be said about it is that you never caused her any physical injury - save for that reddening of her cheek.”
But he said the mental effect had been ‘profound’ on the Havant-based victim.
The judge imposed a ten-month jail term suspended for two years with 300 hours’ unpaid work and six-month curfew between 10.30pm-5am. He must complete 40 days’ rehabilitation.
The court heard how the night before the couple’s wedding Fitzjohn said his bride’s ‘parents were not good for her’ and insisted they should not attend.
This led to her parents being asked to leave the ceremony before it started and police were called.
‘This wasn’t a great start to married life and unfortunately it’s only recently that (your wife) has recovered the relationship with her mother and that was only after Mr Fitzjohn was arrested,’ the prosecutor said.
The pair had met through work when she was 18 and married in 2017.
Controlling her to the point ‘she felt she had a curfew,’ Ms Tascon said, he even once ‘locked and bolted’ the front door - forcing her to call him to get in.
He told her she could not go out because of the ‘virus’ but went out with his friends. She felt it was ‘one rule for him and one rule for her’.
During one incident in 2019 he was doing DIY putting up a photo frame and asked his wife to hand over a nail.
When she wasn’t fast enough he ‘pinned (her) against a wall with a hammer in his hand,’ the prosecutor said.
“Mr Fitzjohn was then verbally abusive and told her to sort her act out.
“(She) then tried to go faster but because she was so nervous in the way that Mr Fitzjohn had reacted, this made her act even slower.
“This resulted in Mr Fitzjohn grabbing (her) pinning her up against the wall by the scruff of her neck spitting in her face being genuinely threatening and aggressive.”
Later he apologised but the victim felt he ‘didn’t mean it’. On another occasion he grabbed her again and threatened to punch her and said: “You want me to do this?”
During another incident driving in a car their sat-nav stopped working and she went to look up a route on Google Maps.
When that wasn’t ‘fast enough’ he lashed out punching her in the leg.
They separated in October 2019 but after a week resumed living together - while still apart.
While out at an arcade the victim saw Fitzjohn telling the manager ‘he was a police officer and stood there at the counter and watched her’.
When she challenged him, he said he’d asked a friend to watch her. He then got aggressive with a man she had been with at the venue.
In March 2020 she took time off work, telling them her husband was ‘controlling and abusive’.
By Easter she started recording their conversations.
At one point he even said she was treating him badly - but ordered her to pack a bag and locked her out.
Another time at Easter in their home he was so threatening she barricaded herself in the bathroom, bolting the door while he pounded on it.
A neighbour heard a ‘blood-curdling scream’ in the incident.
On Easter Sunday the pair talked for a long time about their relationship but when she wanted to go to sleep in the lounge he exploded in rage.
He said: ‘No-one will ever find you - you understand me?’
Fitzjohn continued with his abuse captured in recordings on April 14, April 16, June 8, June 11 and June 17 - threatening her with ‘war’ and calling her a ‘slag’.
He also tried to limit her use of social media, and who could access images she posted. Another day he grabbed her phone over the row pulling her onto the sofa.
Even when he was arrested Fitzjohn claimed she was the ‘manipulative’ one - telling a police officer in a holding cell in Portsmouth she had an affair.
Fitzjohn would berate her if she laughed too loudly at home. “It feel like (I am) now free to laugh as much as I want,” she said.
Richard Tutt, mitigating, said former Royal Logistic Corps soldier and ex-council enforcement officer Fitzjohn ‘deeply regrets’ his actions and ‘is remorseful’.
The judge said mitigating factors were the fact he had no previous convictions, his five-year service in the forces, two years as a PCSO, the Covid effect on prisoners, the fact he’s employed as a dispatcher for a gas company.
Fitzjohn admitted coercive control in court on June 18 after first denying the charge. He resigned from Sussex police in February this year.
Investigator DC Sarah Roadnight, said: “The victim in this case was hesitant to report these crimes at first as she thought she would not be believed.
“Understandably this was an incredibly traumatic ordeal for the victim and I would like to commend her on her bravery and courage, which has helped to secure this result today.
“There is often a reluctance to come forward in cases like this, but we hope that this result shows how seriously we take such crimes.
“We want to encourage anyone who has been the victim of any type of domestic abuse, including controlling or coercive behaviour to report this to us. If you report it, you will be listened to.”
:: If you are expiring domestic abuse, call the Hampshire Domestic Abuse Advice Line on 03300 165 112. In an emergency call 999.