Renowned conductor and wife die in suicide clinic

Renowned conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife, who died together in an assisted suicide clinic, were devoted to each other, the musician's manager said today.

Paying tribute to 85-year-old Sir Edward and 74-year-old Lady Joan Downes, Jonathan Groves said the couple's decision to end their lives at the Swiss organisation Dignitas was "typically brave and courageous".

The pair, who had been battling serious health problems, died peacefully at the clinic in Zurich on Friday, their family said.

Sir Edward, who worked with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Opera House, was almost blind and had suffered hearing loss.

Mr Groves, who had known the conductor for 35 years, said: "It was a shock to all his friends and colleagues because it was something he and Joan planned very much within their family.

"None of us were aware this was going to happen until after they had died.

"It was very typical of the way he lived his life. I do not think there is anyone anywhere who has lived his life with more self-determination than Ted (Sir Edward) did.

"The decision that he and Joan made to end their lives in the way they did was a very typically brave and courageous decision.

"They were absolutely devoted to each."

Mr Groves, of management company Ingpen and Williams Ltd, said Lady Downes, a former ballet dancer, had become "very ill" and Sir Edward was suffering the ailments of very old age.

In a statement, their son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca, said: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our parents Edward and Joan Downes on Friday 10th July.

"After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems.

"They died peacefully and under circumstances of their own choosing, with the help of the Swiss organisation Dignitas, in Zurich.

"Our father, who was 85 years old, almost blind and increasingly deaf, had a long, vigorous and distinguished career as a conductor.

"Our mother, who was 74, started her career as a ballet dancer and subsequently worked as a choreographer and TV producer, before dedicating the last years of her life to working as our father's personal assistant.

"They both lived life to the full and considered themselves to be extremely lucky to have lived such rewarding lives, both professionally and personally.

"Our parents had no religious beliefs and there will be no funeral.

"They will be missed by Caractacus, Boudicca, Omar and Zeki, as well as by many family members and friends."









Sir Edward was born in Birmingham in 1924 and as a young man studied and worked with German conductor Hermann Scherchen.

He went on to work with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra for 40 years, first as chief guest conductor, then principal conductor and finally conductor emeritus.

Sir Edward joined the Royal Opera House in 1952 and remained a company member for 17 years.

Mr Groves said one of his lasting contributions to British music would be his service to the Royal Opera House, where he conducted in every season for over 50 years, taking part in 49 different operas in 950 performances.

Sir Edward became the music director of the Australian Opera in 1970 and conducted the first performance in the Sydney Opera House.

He received a CBE in 1986 and was knighted in 1991.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "It was reported to police on Monday, July 13, that a man and woman from SE3 had died in Switzerland.

"Following inquiries police are looking into the circumstances of the apparent death of an 85-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman on Friday, July 10, in Switzerland.

"We continue to investigate the circumstances of their deaths. No further details at this stage. The investigation is being led by Greenwich CID."









A controversial move to relax the law on assisted dying was thrown out by the Lords last week.

Peers voted by 194 to 141, a majority of 53, to reject Labour ex-Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton's proposal to allow people to help someone with a terminal illness travel to a country where assisted suicide is legal.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying, said: "Sir Edward Downes and Lady Joan Downes add their names to the ever growing list of Britons who have travelled abroad to die.

"This problem is clearly not going to go away; we are descending down a slippery slope towards unregulated assisted dying abroad, at a rapid pace.

"This emphasises the need for the safeguards that Lord Falconer was calling for in his amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill last Tuesday.

"Opponents to the amendment, which was eventually defeated by 194 votes to 141, said that it would turn the traffic lights on assisted dying from red to green.

"The light is already green and what is needed is urgent action to safeguard the practice in this country.

"The amendment clearly does not relax the law - it sets out to regulate the law.

"Dignity in Dying believes that, within safeguards to prevent abuse, people should be able to make such decisions for themselves, but safeguards are the key and without them, as is the situation at present, the process is dangerous and open to abuse."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor