A retired British miner convicted of manslaughter after killing his wife to relieve her suffering from blood cancer was released on Monday by a Cypriot court due to the time served of his two-year sentence.
David Hunter, now 76, was tried for the premeditated murder of his 74-year-old wife, Janice, on December 18, 2021, but was convicted of the lesser charge last week.
“David Hunter was given a 2-year sentence which means that he will be released from custody immediately,” said British lawyer Michael Polak of Justice Abroad
“We are very pleased with the sentence of the court today,” he added after Monday’s ruling.
He has been in custody for 19 months since his arrest in December 2021, which factors as time served of the jail sentence.
With time taken off for good behaviour, a prison year is less than 12 months.
The decision by the Paphos Criminal Court three-judge bench was unanimous after considering personal circumstances and sending a deterrent message to society.
“The sentencing exercise was not a simple one given that a case like this has never come before the courts of Cyprus before,” said Polak.
On July 21, the 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.
“The result of today’s hearing, and the court’s previous decision finding Mr Hunter not guilty of murder, is what we have been fighting for in this case, and David is very pleased with the outcome today,” said Polak.
“David would like to thank his legal team for their work, the experts who supported his case, and everyone from Cyprus, the United Kingdom, and around the world who has supported him.
“This has been a tragic case and difficult for all of those involved with it, but today’s decision was the right one and allowed David and his family to grieve together.”
In its ruling, the court agreed with the defence position that it was not a case of premeditated murder as Hunter had acted spontaneously to end the life of his wife of 52 years, upon her begging him to do so because of the pain she was under.
“The way the accused acted at the material time does not show premeditation for his illegal act, but on the contrary, an impulsive act without a clear mind,” said presiding Judge Michalis Drousiotis.
“Murder must be the result of planning and committed in cold blood.”
In Cyprus, a largely Orthodox Christian country where euthanasia is taboo, the case is unprecedented as there is no law on assisted suicide.
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 repeatedly told him to end her life.
His defence lawyers had asked the attorney general to reduce the charges to assisted suicide which was denied.
Janice Hunter was suffocated by her husband at their home in Tremithousa, near Paphos, 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.