Pensioner cleared of ‘mercy killing’ murder of terminally-ill husband

Dennis Eccleston died while holding his wife’s hand

Harriet Williamson
Wednesday 18 September 2019 19:47
Comments
81-year-old woman cleared of husband mercy killing

A pensioner has been cleared of the “mercy killing” murder of her terminally ill husband, who died after they both took an overdose last year.

Mavis Eccleston was also acquitted of the manslaughter of 81-year-old Dennis Eccleston after telling jurors they were both of sound mind, and had agreed to take medication to end their own lives together.

Prosecutors had alleged that Mr Eccleston, who was in the “end stages” of bowel cancer, was unaware that he was taking a potentially lethal overdose and that his wife later made admissions to two mental health nurses.

But the 80-year-old was unanimously cleared of murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter following a two-week trial at Stafford Crown Court.

Mr Eccleston had previously talked about travelling to Switzerland to end his life on his own terms. His wife told the jury last week that her husband had kissed her hand in thanks after she agreed to “go with his wishes” to die.

Describing how the pair agreed to take their own lives at their home in Huntington, Staffordshire, the pensioner told the court that Mr Eccleston “knew full well” what medication they were taking and administered his overdose himself.

Ms Eccleston was given an antidote in hospital for the drugs she had taken in the early hours of 19 February 2018.

The pensioner told the jury she had fetched medication from a nearby cupboard at her husband’s request, adding: “It was an understanding between us. He had to tell me what I had got to do.”

Answering questions from defence barrister Mark Heywood QC, the defendant added that she had written a note saying the couple had decided to take their own lives, to explain their actions to their children.

“The next thing I knew I was in hospital,” she told the court.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Jurors took around four hours to reach their not guilty verdicts after hearing claims that the prosecution of Ms Eccleston was based on “throwaway remarks” between her and two nurses.

During a closing speech to the jury, defence barrister Mark Heywood QC said Ms Eccleston immediately disputed what the nurses alleged she had said.

The barrister also submitted that it was a “fantasy” to suggest Mr Eccleston would not have asked his wife what medication he was taking.

Ms Eccleston was arrested on 21 February, a day after her husband passed away while she held his hand in hospital.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in