A ''decent and devoted'' husband who strangled his wife while he dreamt she was a intruder has been cleared of murder after the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales accepted he had not been in control of his actions but was not a danger to anyone else.

Father-of-two Brian Thomas killed his wife, Christine, as he was in the throes of a nightmare about a ''boy racer'' who had broken into the camper van they were sleeping in. Members of the jury at the crown court in Swansea, Wales, wept after they were ordered formally to acquit Thomas, who had suffered ''night terrors'' for about 50 years without ever being treated.

Friends and family said he was devastated by the loss of his beloved wife of almost 40 years. In court, he was described as a ''broken man'' who might try to harm himself.

Since he was a child, Thomas had been prone to sleepwalking and other sleep disorders. At home he and his wife slept in separate bedrooms but shared a double bed when they went away in their campervan.

Thomas, 59, used to take tablets for depression but stopped taking them when he and his wife, 57, went away in their van because they made him impotent.

In July last year the couple went on one of their regular jaunts in their camper van. They parked up in a carpark in the seaside village of Aberporth, west Wales but were disturbed by ''boy racers'' performing wheelspins and handbrake turns at 11.30 p.m.

They drove to the carpark of the Ship Inn in the village where they settled down for the night. But later Thomas made a 999 call saying he had strangled his wife in his sleep.

He told the operator: ''What have I done? I've been trying to wake her. I think I've killed my wife. Oh my God. I thought someone had broken in.

''I was fighting with those boys but it was Christine. I must have been dreaming or something. What have I done? What have I done? Can you send someone?''

At first police were sceptical but friends and relatives told detectives they were a loving couple. They enjoyed regular nights out, watched rugby together and had booked a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate their forthcoming 40th wedding anniversary. Tests carried out on Thomas, some while he spent 10 months in prison on remand, confirmed he suffered from night terrors. - © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

More In: International | News