A Surrey mother who survived years of "severe" domestic abuse from her husband was so frightened that she began documenting her injuries as evidence in case he ended up killing her. Joseph Alcock was jailed for almost six years on Monday (January 9) after admitting multiple assaults against Sarah Rowland.
Miss Rowland, 51, who was married to Alcock for 10 years, was left with a permanent scar on her lip following one attack in November 2018. During the incident he punched her face with such force that it left her lip needing approximately 30 stitches and eventual surgery.
Speaking outside Guildford Crown Court after the conviction, she told SurreyLive: "I feel relieved and now I can get on with the rest of my life. I've had this hanging over me for the last two-and-a-half years.
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"I just want other women to stand up and speak about these things because otherwise we all stay behind our front door and it carries on. So that's why I did what I did."
Prosecutor Wendy Cottee told Judge Robert Fraser that Alcock, 43, had subjected Miss Rowland to a “persistent and vicious series of attacks." Most of them were to the head and face and also included being stabbed in the leg with a knife, hit while she was asleep and her body jammed against a door and radiator that left her with bruising.
The court saw "chilling" CCTV footage from the early hours of September 6, 2020, inside the Prince of Wales pub in Hampstead Road, Dorking where Miss Rowland had gone to visit Alcock to talk about the arrangements of their separation. Clips showed the pair together in the empty venue - that Alcock was landlord of at the time - at around 2.45am before he knocks her to the floor.
At one point, after Miss Rowland stood back up and attempted to exit the pub, he hit her from behind and rendered her unconscious. Ms Cottee said: "It’s quite clear she is unconscious and one thing he doesn't do is call for assistance."
After coming round and suffering more kicks and punches from Alcock, she left the pub and was later found by a female passerby on the side of a Dorking road, unable to stand and with dried blood on her top . She was taken to hospital for treatment.
Two of Miss Rowland's impact statements were read out in court, including one given by herself. They said: “Words cannot describe what I have been through,” and went on to describe how Alcock would “watch her every move”.
She lost contact with most of her friends during the course of the relationship and from 2017 began recording the assaults as they became more “severe”. She added: “I thought if he did kill me then there would be evidence on my phone," and spent the last three years "hiding away and in a constant state of fear that he will find me."
Miss Rowland said she felt "worthless and ugly" with "no confidence any more" following the attacks and added: "No matter what the sentence, I have to live with the physical and mental scars." The years of abuse resulted in her leaving a job of 17 years as well as being put on medication by her GP.
The court heard she felt “too ashamed” to tell people that she was “living with a monster”. Miss Rowland admitted: "Being in the same room as him is scary but I have to stay strong."
Speaking on Alcock's behalf, defence barrister Jim Olphert said he was "deeply sorry for the pain he has caused" and admitted that "his temper flares when he has had a drink”. The defendant - who had pleaded guilty to the charges - ran pubs in the south east of England for most of his life and upon his arrest told police that he used to be a semi-professional boxer.
He had two previous convictions that he was fined for, one involving sending "threatening texts" to Miss Rowland in 2016. In May 2022 a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear in court for the various assault offences concerning Miss Rowland.
Judge Fraser sentenced Alcock, of no fixed abode, to a total of five years and 10 months in jail after being convicted of four counts of ABH and two counts of unlawful wounding. The judge called the defendant's actions a “sustained campaign of domestic abuse" and labelled him "controlling" and a "violent bully".
He said: " Quite clearly you subjected her to violence and abuse through latter parts of the relationship. It's a miracle that her injuries [referring to the CCTV footage] were not considerably more serious than they were - it must have been frightening for her.
"It is remarkable that you knew there was CCTV - as it was a pub you were running - and you clearly had a great deal of confidence in the way you were treating her that she wasn't going to make a complaint. The disturbing footage shows in my view what an extremely violent temper you have."
Judge Fraser - who also handed a "necessary" restraining order against Alcock - paid tribute to Miss Rowland's bravery in coming to the court and giving a statement.
- Women experiencing domestic abuse can call The Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 any time, day or night. While men experiencing domestic abuse can call Men's Advice Line on 0808 8010 327 (Monday to Friday 10am-8pm) or visit the webchat at Men's Advice Line (Wednesday 10am-11.30am and 2.30pm-4pm)
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