A retired British miner was found guilty of manslaughter instead of the more serious charge of premeditated murder after killing his wife to relieve her suffering from blood cancer, a Paphos court ruled Friday.
David Hunter, now 76, was on trial, accused of the premeditated murder of his 74-year-old wife, Janice, on December 18, 2021.
The Paphos criminal court delivered a guilty verdict but said the prosecution had failed to prove motive for premeditated murder, which carries a maximum life prison sentence.
Instead, the three-judge bench convicted the accused of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years.
The defence could argue that time served in custody during his trial is punishment enough.
“It’s our judgement that the prosecution has not proven beyond reasonable doubt the element of premeditation,” said presiding Judge Michalis Drousotis.
“The way the accused acted at the time does not show premeditation for his illegal act, but on the contrary, an impulsive act without a clear mind,” he added.
The court will adjourn for mitigating arguments and possibly sentencing on July 27.
It is viewed as a landmark case for Cyprus which has no law on euthanasia.
Hunter – in custody for 19 months — had told the criminal court that he reluctantly ended his wife’s life after she persistently “begged” him to do so.
“We are ecstatic with the result today,” said UK lawyer Michael Polak of Justice Abroad handling the case.
“This is exactly what we were hoping for.
“This gives the Court the option of a suspended sentence which we say is appropriate given the time David has already spent in custody, his age and the tragic facts of this case,” he said after Friday’s hearing.
Polak said the defence would argue for a suspended sentence “given that this is the first time a case such as this has been dealt with before the Cypriot Courts”.
“This remains a tragic case.
“Janice and David were in a loving relationship for over 50 years, and it is clear that David did what he did out of love for Janice upon her request.
“We strongly believe that no proper purpose would be served by David spending any further time within Nicosia prison.
“David would like to thank everyone for their continued support, which has helped us get to this point today,” said Polak.
Towards the end of her life, Hunter said his wife, Janice, was so unwell that she could no longer walk upstairs, and they had to sleep in a lounge chair downstairs.
During her suffering from blood transfusions because of blood cancer, she repeatedly told him to end her life, Hunter said.
His defence lawyers had asked the Attorney General to reduce the charges to assisted suicide which was denied.
In closing submissions, the defence argued that David acted spontaneously to end his wife’s life upon her begging him to do so because of her pain.
State prosecutor Andreas Hadjikyrou argued that any suggestion the couple made a pact to end her life implied a form of premeditation.
He also stated that the postmortem report suggested that Janice struggled when suffocated, suggesting she hadn’t surrendered to her fate.
Janice Hunter was suffocated by her husband at their Paphos home in Tremithousa, where shortly afterwards, David tried to commit suicide.
He attempted to take his own life by overdosing on prescription pills and alcohol before being found by police.