Briton found guilty in ‘mercy killing’ agonises over fate

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A British pensioner found guilty of killing his seriously ill wife will hear his fate during sentencing at Paphos Criminal Court on July 31.

Last week, the court rejected the premeditated murder charge and convicted David Hunter, 76, of manslaughter instead – his defence argued for a suspended sentence during Thursday’s mitigation hearing.

The Briton admits to suffocating his wife Janice, 74, in a mercy killing at their Paphos retirement home in December 2021.

Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad representing Hunter, said there had not been a similar case in Cyprus before, but courts in other countries, including Australia and the UK, had found suspended sentences appropriate for cases like his client’s.

“Today, we gave lengthy written submissions which include case law from across common law countries such as Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

“This is important as Cyprus has never sentenced a case such as this before.

“Cases from those jurisdictions show that a suspended sentence can be given in these circumstances.

“We will be asking the court to give David a suspended sentence.

“He has spent the equivalent of almost 2.5 years in custody, and no proper purpose would be served by him spending more time in prison,” Polak said after Thursday’s hearing.

Hunter, who has been in custody for 19 months, had told the court his wife “cried and begged” him to end her life as she had blood cancer.

The couple’s daughter, Lesley Cawthorne, said the family was “apprehensive” before the sentencing hearing.

She told the PA news agency: “We are hoping for time served or a suspended sentence but are very aware that there’s a chance he’ll remain in custody.

“We’re not counting our chickens.”

Cawthorne said her father had been “quietly relieved” since last week’s verdict but was “not especially” hopeful about his sentence.

“He doesn’t want to allow himself to get his hopes up,” she said.

“He’s grateful that the judges seem to have understood what they went through and believe that he acted out of love.”

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 repeated blood transfusions for cancer, Hunter said she often told him to end her life.

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 of over 50 years upon her begging him to do so because of her pain.