Father tells jury of 'pact' with wife to kill terminally ill son

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The father of a severely disabled boy told a jury yesterday how he suffocated his sleeping son with a pillow. Andrew Wragg, 37, said he had formed a pact with his wife to kill their 10-year-old son, Jacob, who was terminally ill, at their home in Worthing, West Sussex.

The father of a severely disabled boy told a jury yesterday how he suffocated his sleeping son with a pillow. Andrew Wragg, 37, said he had formed a pact with his wife to kill their 10-year-old son, Jacob, who was terminally ill, at their home in Worthing, West Sussex.

Mr Wragg, who denies murder, but admits manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, told Lewes Crown Court of the moment he killed in son in July last year.

"I went straight away to his bedroom. He was asleep, fast asleep," he said. "I took a pillow from the side of him - it wasn't under his head because that would have disturbed him - I took a pillow from beside him and then I knelt across him, put the pillow over his face and then I laid down with him on top of him. He didn't make any noises from when I put the pillow straight over his face, immediately."

Jacob was deaf, unable to speak and crippled by Hunter syndrome, a degenerative disease which affects physical and mental development. Few sufferers live past their mid-teens.

Mr Wragg said he telephoned his wife, Mary, 41, who was on her way to visit her mother, and then lay with his son for 20 minutes or half an hour.

"That was spent stroking his head, talking to him, trying to explain why I thought it was the best thing for him," he said. His wife arrived and said, "Oh my God", Mr Wragg told the jury. "She hugged me."

The former SAS soldier, who says that Jacob's death was a mercy killing, committed with the agreement of his wife, was giving evidence in court for the first time. He said that when he told his wife about his intention to kill Jacob, she replied, "Why wait?"

Mrs Wragg, who was in court, denies agreeing to the killing. The couple have since divorced. Mr Wragg told the court: "[My wife] was completely aware of what was happening that night.

"It would never have happened if she had expressed a wish that she did not want it to happen. I would not take that decision alone."

Earlier, the court heard that Mr Wragg had been at the bedside of his wife when she had a second baby aborted after they discovered that the unborn boy was suffering from the same condition as Jacob.

The jury was told about Mr Wragg's military service. He served with the Army for almost five years, rising to the position of lance corporal and passing an SAS course before being discharged on compassionate grounds in 1996.

He was described as a "mature, determined and ambitious soldier" with "exemplary" conduct, and was awarded a UN service medal for his work in Bosnia. A report from a major in July 1996 said: "I have been impressed with the way Lance Corporal Wragg has conducted himself and the way he has kept his family together during this difficult time."

Mr Wragg later spent three "terrifying" months working in Iraq as a private security guard, and narrowly escaped injury in an attack by a suicide bomber struck.

When he returned from Iraq to Worthing, Mr Wragg told the court, he found that Jacob had "massively changed". The boy could not speak, his hands were more clawed, and he was walking completely on tiptoe.

"I did not want him to suffer," Mr Wragg said. I wanted him to die with dignity in the place where he was most loved and most comfortable, and that is what happened."

Mr Wragg also denied earlier claims made in court by his former wife that he was embarrassed by Jacob and his condition.

"It's probably one of the worst things I've heard this week," he told the court. "I never ever said that. I was proud of my son."

The defendant was asked what he thought would happen after he had killed Jacob. He said: "I expected to be stood here one day. I thought I would go to prison, sir."

Mr Wragg told the court that his son had failed to recognise him on the day of his death, when he had spent half an hour with him.

"There was not much interaction," he said. "He was just staring at me. It was the first time I realised there was something desperately wrong.

"He looked sad and fed-up with life and with his condition. The whites of his eyes were stained. I was holding his shoulders to try and get a response but there was no response. He looked desperately sad that day."

On the night of the killing, Mr Wragg said, he went out drinking with friends, and later telephoned his wife and told her to take their other son, George, to his grandmother.

He said that he then walked the mile and a half to their home and went straight to Jacob's bedroom, where he killed him.

Philip Katz QC, for the prosecution, told the defendant: "You did this for yourself. It was a selfish killing and you did it in drink. You realised the consequences of what would happen, but you made the decision and you made it rationally and you did what you planned to do."

The case continues.