Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020

Pensioner who 'mercy killed' sick husband says he begged her to take his life

A pensioner accused of ‘mercy killing’ her terminally ill husband said he begged her to help end his life.

Mavis Eccleston, 80, denies the murder and manslaughter of her husband of almost 60 years, Dennis Eccleston, who died in hospital on February 20, last year.

It is alleged retired miner Mr Eccleston, who had bowel cancer, did not know he was being given a ‘potentially lethal’ overdose in the early hours of February 19, at their home in Huntington, near Cannock.

But the mother-of-three said her 81-year-old 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.

Mrs Eccleston told jurors at Stafford Crown Court how the couple had an ‘understanding’ and she had written a letter to their children explaining their decision to take their own lives.

The pensioner, who was later given an antidote in hospital for the drugs she had taken, added: ‘The next thing I knew I was in hospital.’

It is alleged Mrs Eccleston told mental health nurses her husband did not know he had been given an overdose but she has no recollection of the conversation taking place.

She told jurors her husband, who she had met as a teenager, was ‘more or less begging’ her to end his life.

After breaking down in tears several times in the witness box, she told the court he had said ‘do you really, really mean it?’ after she said she had 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 of eight men and four women. ‘He wanted to go.’

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

After they had both taken the medication, the court heard, Mrs Eccleston kissed her husband on the head, pulled a cover over him, and he said ‘good night darling’ as she went to lie down on a sofa.

Defence barrister Mark Heywood QC, said it had been suggested Mr Eccleston did not know the drugs would be dangerous to him – and that Mrs Eccleston had decided to kill him and then kill herself.

Describing the allegations against her as a downright untruth, Mrs 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.’

Questioned about what she could recall from her conversation with mental health nursing staff at Stafford Hospital, the pensioner told the jury: ‘I can’t even remember what the room looked like.

‘I can’t remember one iota of the conversation.’

The trial continues.

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