A MAN accused of murdering a St Ives mother-of-two made 28 calls to the Samaritans in 10 days prior to her death and could have lacked self-control because of emotional problems.

Cambridge Crown Court heard yesterday (Tuesday) that John Mearns had told a psychiatrist that he did not intend to kill hairdresser Pauline Smith, who died at her home in Gainsborough Drive, St Ives, on October 26.

The 53-year-old, who admits manslaughter but denies murder, is accused of strangling Mrs Smith and then stabbing himself in the stomach to make it look like self-defence - although Mearns later admitted stabbing himself.

William Harbage, defending, said that in Mearns's fragile emotional state he had, in fact, intended to kill himself with the knife after killing Mrs Smith in self-defence.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Nuwan Gacappathie told the court that, during an interview with the defendant on March 8, Mearns, who had a history of depression, had said he loved Mrs Smith.

Dr Gacappathie added that on the night of her death Mearns had said he was upstairs in the bedroom getting undressed when Mrs Smith came out of the bathroom, hit him on the chest and blamed him for her "family problems".

Mearns also told Dr Gacappathie how he put his arms on her shoulders and then onto her neck to restrain her.

"I don't know if I squeezed too hard on her neck - I can't remember," Mearns said.

He described to the psychiatrist that Mrs Smith was still moving when he lifted her onto the bed, he then went downstairs, picked up a knife and on returning to the bedroom stabbed himself several times in the stomach with the intention of killing himself, then passed out.

When he slumped backwards on to the bed he dropped the knife and it "fell into her hand", the court was told.

Dr Gacappathie said a number of stressful events had effected Mearns - he had become estranged from his parents, was living in a caravan and feared Mrs Smith was about to end their relationship and return to her family in Somersham.

Asked by Mr Harbage about the defendant's ability to understand the nature of the offence, Dr Gacappathie said that, at the time of the offence, Mearns's ability to form rational judgments would also have been impaired, and his emotional problems could have played an significant part in his ability to exercise self-control making him "more likely to snap." The trial continues.