Radiotherapy to blame for Mo's death, says husband

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"I woke up when I heard a terrible scream," Mr Norton told today's Mail on Sunday. "She had got up, fallen and hit her head on the corner of the bed. It would have knocked out anyone. I went to help and she was rigid, staring at the ceiling. I tried to bring her round but there was nothing I could do."

He emphasised that there had been no recurrence of cancer and she had not suffered a stroke, but he was bitter that the couple had been kept in the dark about the dementia and other side-effects of radiotherapy.

Mo Mowlam was diagnosed as suffering from a brain tumour only weeks before Labour's election victory in 1997, but according to Mr Norton she was told then that she had a chance of living to be 80. Two years ago, she made a living will asking that her life should not be artificially prolonged. "We had talked about the possibility of her dying and we always believed in euthanasia," Mr Norton said.

Towards the end of her life, she needed a Zimmer frame and was losing her memory. On the night before the fall, she was joking about a new wheelchair, saying that she was going to get a motorised version so that she could terrorise pedestrians in Sittingbourne High Street. But later "she was so weak it took nearly half an hour to get her upstairs", Mr Norton said.

Hours after her death, early on Friday, Tony Blair phoned Jon Norton from his foreign holiday to thank him for caring for her. "He was generous and said it would be understandable if I felt a sense of relief," Mr Norton said. "He was absolutely right. She could get so angry and frustrated. She is at peace now."

A private family funeral will be held next week, with no senior politicians invited - averting the risk of the controversy that surrounded Mr Blair's decision not to attend the funeral of Robin Cook. There will be a memorial service in her honour at a later date.