A pensioner with an interest in military history used a commando dagger to stab a former RAF nurse to death.

Thomas Whitehorn, aged 74, launched a savage attack on close friend Rhonda Humphreys and stabbed her 26 times, with all but three of the wounds centred on her face, head and neck.

Truro Crown Court heard that 53-year-old Rhonda – known as Ronni – was a woman with "demons" and an alcohol problem.

Prosecutor Miss Jo Martin QC said they both lived in flats in Hayle and had a relationship at one stage but were now good friends.

Rhonda was "normal for 40% of the time" and was "lovely when not drinking", the court heard.

Miss Martin said: "Thomas Whitehorn tried to help her. While he became frustrated with her behaviour, he would not become angry and was supportive to her."

The court heard another woman resident was causing huge problems for the residents with her anti-social behaviour and two days before the killing in October last year, Whitehorn applied to move to sheltered accommodation "because he was struggling to cope", said Miss Martin.

Early on October 26 last year he dialled 999 to say he had killed his partner because she and the other neighbour "were driving me mad" – and he had taken an overdose in the hope of then killing himself.

Whitehorn said he was at "the end of his tether" with Rhonda's "rubbish talk" and grabbed the dagger from a drawer and stabbed her to death.

Thomas Whitehorn from Hayle was jailed for nine years for manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility

Thomas Whitehorn from Hayle was jailed for nine years for manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility

On the front door of his flat he wrote "no danger to police or anyone", "being driven mad resulting in this", "she is pure evil" and "sorry boys, have a good life".

The divorced father of two sons had also written a letter the day before, thinking he would also be dead.

He told police in interview his "head was completely scrambled" and he could not stand it anymore and wanted to kill her and himself.

He grabbed the knife from the drawer and told her "have some of this", adding: "I just went mad; it was bloody horrible. That's what happens when someone drives you mad. It is not in my personality to do anyone any harm."

Whitehorn, of Foundry Square, Hayle, denied murder but admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. Two psychiatrists said he was suffering from a depressive disorder.

He was jailed for nine years by Judge Simon Carr , who said Whitehorn blamed her behaviour to minimise his own actions and said the attack was "ferocious".

He said: "Your judgement and self-control were substantially impaired at the time of the act."

Andrew Langdon, defending, said Whitehorn called Rhonda "the most fabulous person in the world".

He said Whitehorn could not cope with the paranoid schizophrenic neighbour screaming all night and then Rhonda's "incessant and intrusive behaviour" which was worse when she was drinking.

He said former RAF sergeant Rhonda was a highly respected speciality nurse during her military career, adding: "He misses her, he loved her and cared for her. He is tormented by what he did which was wholly inexcusable."