British man who killed terminally ill wife after she ‘begged him to’ is freed from Cyprus prison

Court hears it was David Hunter’s wife’s ‘wish’ to die and that her husband ‘had only feelings of love for her’

Matt Mathers
Monday 31 July 2023 16:23 BST
David Hunter: Man speaks who killed dying wife in Cyprus released after serving sentence

A retired British miner who suffocated his terminally ill wife in Cyprus after she “begged him to” has been released after spending nearly two years behind bars.

David Hunter, 76, admitted killing Janice Hunter, 74, his spouse of 52 years, at their home near the coastal resort town of Paphos in December 2021.

Ms Hunter had been suffering from blood cancer and the court was told she had “begged” her husband to end her life.

Hunter was handed a two-year prison sentence on Monday but was released shortly after the sentencing, having already spent 19 months in a Cypriot prison.

Speaking outside Paphos District Court after walking free, a visibly emotional Hunter told reporters: “I can’t describe it. I’m sorry. I wish I could, I wish I could find words to describe it but I can’t.

“When you’re under pressure for two years, not knowing which way it’s going to go.”

His daughter, Lesley Cawthorne, said she feels her “heart has been put back together” since his release, adding: “Today is the start of us being able to rebuild our lives.”

David and Janice Hunter (PA Media)

Paphos District Court earlier heard that his motive was to “liberate his wife from all that she was going through due to her health conditions”.

During the year-long trial, the court heard it was Ms Hunter’s “wish” to die and that her husband “had only feelings of love for her”.

Hunter, from Ashington, Northumberland, told the court that his wife had “cried and begged” him to end her life. He broke down in tears as he said he would “never in a million years” have taken his wife’s life unless she had asked him to.

He showed the court how he held his hands over his wife’s mouth and nose, and said he eventually decided to grant her wish after she became “hysterical”.

The court heard how he then tried to kill himself by taking an overdose, but medics arrived in time to save him.

David Hunter outside Paphos District Court in Cyprus after he was released from custody (PA Wire)

Following his release, Ms Cawthorne said the last 19 months had been a “living nightmare” for their family.

She said: “Today is the start of us being able to rebuild our lives. Dad’s release also means we can finally grieve for my mum, and I hope everyone can respect our privacy whilst we take the time to come to terms with her loss.”

She added: “So many people have worked hard and supported our efforts to bring my dad home, too many to mention, but you know who you are and you know you have our deepest gratitude.

“The kindness and love of friends and strangers has been the thing that has kept us going, and we can never thank you all enough.”

David Hunter with his defence team (right) and Michael Polak, the director of Justice Abroad (PA)

After talking to her father on the phone, Ms Cawthorne added: “Speaking to my daddy was the most amazing thing. I feel like my heart has been put back together.”

Giving evidence during his trial, Hunter spoke of a “perfect” 52-year marriage to his wife and broke down in tears as he described the moment he killed her.

“For five or six weeks before she died she was asking me to help her. She was asking me more every day,” he said. “In the last week she was crying and begging me. Every day she asked me a bit more intensely to do it.”

David Hunter was released from prison on Monday (PA)

The court heard from Ms Hunter’s doctor, who said she had a rare blood cancer, while Hunter said she had become progressively more unwell and had no quality of life.

Asked by defence lawyer Ritsa Pekri how the last days were, Hunter said: “She was crying, crying, crying, begging, begging, begging.

“She wasn’t taking any care of herself. For the last two or three weeks she could not move her arms and had trouble with her legs, she couldn’t balance.

“She was only eating soup, she couldn’t hold anything down. She lost a lot of weight. She lost so much weight that there was no flesh to put her injections in.”

David Hunter is led away from Paphos District Court in Cyprus after he was found guilty by Cypriot judges of the manslaughter of his terminally ill wife Janice (PA Wire)

The Hunters visited Cyprus on holidays and bought a property there in 1999 before retiring there permanently two years later.

Ms Hunter is buried a short distance away from the couple’s former home in Tremithousa – a quiet village about three miles from Paphos.

In a statement issued after the sentencing, the director of Justice Abroad, Michael Polak, said his client was “very pleased” with the outcome.

“The result of today’s hearing, and the court’s previous decision finding Mr Hunter not guilty of murder, is what we have been fighting for in this case, and David is very pleased with the outcome today,” he said.

He added: “This has been a tragic case and difficult for all of those involved with it, but today’s decision was the right one and allows David and his family to grieve together.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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