Elderly woman accused of murdering terminally-ill husband tells court he 'begged for help' to end life

Mavis Eccleston tried to kill herself after giving husband overdose, court hears

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 11 September 2019 19:05 BST
Mavis Eccleston was cleared of murdering her husband Dennis.
Mavis Eccleston was cleared of murdering her husband Dennis. (PA)

An elderly woman accused of murdering her terminally-ill husband has told a court he begged her for help to end his life.

Mavis Eccleston denies the murder and manslaughter of Dennis Eccleston, saying she followed his wishes to give him an overdose before trying to kill herself.

The couple met as teenagers and had been married for almost 60 years before Mr Eccleston died in hospital last February.

The 80-year-old told Stafford Crown Court her husband, who had talked about going to Switzerland to end his life, had kissed her hand in thanks after she told him she would “go with his wishes” to die.

After breaking down in tears several times in the witness box, Ms Eccleston said he asked “do you really, really mean it?” after she agreed to help him prepare an overdose of medication.

“He got hold of my hand and just kissed it, as if to say thank you,” she told the jury on Wednesday. “He wanted to go.”

Prosecutors allege that Mr Eccleston, a retired miner who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, was unaware he was being given a “potentially lethal” overdose at the couple’s home in Huntington in the early hours of 19 February 2018.

Telling the court she had fetched medication from a nearby cupboard at her husband’s request, Ms Eccleston said: “It was an understanding between us. He had to tell me what I had got to do.”

The pensioner said that after they both took the tablets, she kissed her husband on the head, pulled a cover over him, and he said “goodnight, darling” as she went to lie down on a sofa.

Answering questions from defence barrister Mark Heywood QC, Ms Eccleston said she wrote a note to their three children explaining why they had decided to take their own lives.

“The next thing I knew I was in hospital,” she told the court, which heard she was given an antidote to the drugs.

The defendant told jurors she could not remember a conversation in which she is alleged to have told mental health nurses that her husband did not know he had been given an overdose.

Mr Heywood said it had been suggested that Mr Eccleston, 81, did not know the drugs would be dangerous and his wife had decided to kill him and then kill herself.

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Describing the allegations against her as a downright untruth, Ms Eccleston replied: “He was the one who told me what to take. He did know what he was taking.

“I would never, ever think of killing my husband – I would only help him to keep out of the pain. He knew full well, although he was ill, what he was taking. He was more or less begging me.”

The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA

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