By DAVID ST GEORGE at the Old Bailey
A husband who killed his wife during a freak attack with a TV remote control during a row was today (Friday) given a three year sentence.
Tragically, former US government diplomat Gloria Laguna had been '"living in the shadow of death" without anyone knowing it.
The Old Bailey was told that 48 year-old was hit in the neck by the remote hurled in temper by "robust" rugby player Paul Harvey.
She suffered from a severe weakness of her vertebral artery and a blow to it from the remote caused a dissection and fatal bleeding to the brain.
Electrical engineer Harvey, 46, tried desperately to revive her and called for an ambulance to their home in Hillwood House, Polygon Road, Somers Town. He was weeping and begging her to come too when paramedics entered.
But Ms Laguna died within hours at University College Hospital from traumatic haemorrhage.
After the incident on March 22, Harvey was charged with murder. But the prosecution dropped that charge when he admitted manslaughter. The couple married in the summer of last year when Ms Laguna retired from a consulate post in India. She was hoping to find a similar post in London. They were watching TV after drinking and taking a small amount of cocaine when a row began over money paid to his ex-wife, said prosecutor Richard Whittam, QC.
Harvey flung the remote in her direction and hit her behind the left ear. She collapsed with no outward sign of injury. The artery weakness "could have been fatal at any time and only required a trivial blow", added the QC.
A pathologist had seen the rare condition only on two previous occasions.
Jonathan Goldberg, QC, defending said Harvey, a burly six footer, loved and cherished his wife and was "deeply ashamed and remorseful".
Mr Goldberg described her condition as like "an eggshell skull" and said the chances of being struck in exactly the most vulnerable spot were millions to one.
"It is a most tragic and unique," he said.
Judge Giles Forrester said Harvey had a record for offences of violence and should have realised he was putting his wife at risk - "even though the risk was greater than anyone could have anticipated" - by his violent reaction, probably triggered by drink and drugs.
"It was irresponsible and dangerous and there is undoubtedly a stroke of anger and violence in your character. You have a problem with your temper and in this case with disastrous consequences," the judge told Harvey, who will serve half of the jail term, prompting the judge to comment that the family of the victim will gain "little solace" from the sentence.
In a moving impact statement grieving relatives said Ms Laguna was "funny, lovely and deeply missed".
Harvey was given a suspended sentence in 1987 for headbutting a policeman and breaking his nose, and jailed for six months in 2002 for punching a partygoer in the face and fracturing his cheek. His two other convictions were for possessing cannabis and smashing a station kiosk door after missing a train.