As a child, Emma witnessed many violent assaults on her mother by her stepfather; both were alcoholics. As a result of her brutal home environment, she ran away many times and spent periods in care and on the road.
At an early age she began using drugs and alcohol and was exploited in pornography and prostitution. At the age of 16, Emma was homeless and working on the streets of Nottingham as a prostitute.
A client, Trevor Armitage who, at 32, was twice her age, offered her shelter in his home. Emma believed at first that Armitage loved her, the only person ever to have said as much to her. However his possessiveness and desire to control her meant she was subjected to extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Armitage constantly monitored her movements and even nailed down the windows to stop her running away. During this time Emma was gang raped by three men and, despite her distress, Armitage would continue to abuse and rape her.
On February 25th 1985 Emma once again, terrified of being raped, slashed her wrists in an attempt to stop the assault and hid the knife in panic. Fearing Armitage would then use the knife on her, she stabbed him once and he died a short time later.
On arrest Emma’s state of shock was such that she was unable to explain why she had killed Armitage or describe the history of violence and abuse. Because of her extreme traumatisation, Emma allowed the police to construct her statement and could not give any evidence in her defence. Emma was convicted of murder and was sentenced at 17 years old to prison with an ‘indefinite sentence’.
Emma contacted Justice For Women in September 1992 after seeing media coverage of the Sara Thornton and Kiranjit Ahluwalia campaigns. Justice for Women campaigned for 2 years to bring her case to the Court of Appeal by which time Emma had spent over 10 years in prison.
On the 7th of July 1995 Emma's conviction for murder was quashed by the Court of Appeal and she walked free, greeted by crowds of cheering supporters. The story was front page news and was a landmark legal case.
For 3 years after her release Emma was an active campaigner for Justice for Women. On the 11th of July 1998 Emma died in her sleep after an accidental overdose of prescription medication.
After her death colleagues and friends from Justice for Women set up a memorial prize award in her memory to acknowledge the contribution of Emma and women like her who are working to end violence against women and children. Painting of Emma Humphreys by Lucy Edkins