'Terminally-ill pensioner knew he was taking lethal overdose,' wife accused of 'mercy killing' tells court
Written by The Newsroom on September 11, 2019
A pensioner accused of the “mercy killing” murder of her terminally-ill husband told a court he had lost the will to live and begged her to help him end his life.
Mavis Eccleston told jurors she could not remember a conversation in which she was alleged to have told mental health nurses that 81-year-old Dennis Eccleston did not know he had been given an overdose.
The 80-year-old denies the murder and manslaughter of her husband of almost 60 years, who died in hospital on February 20 last year.
Giving evidence in the second week of a trial at Stafford Crown Court, the mother-of-three said her 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.
Prosecutors allege retired miner Mr Eccleston, who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, was unaware he was being given a “potentially lethal” overdose at the couple’s home in Raven Close, Huntington, near Cannock, in the early hours of February 19.
Mrs Eccleston, who was given an antidote in hospital for the drugs she had taken, told jurors she had met her husband as a teenager.
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 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 to do.”
After they had both taken 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.
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.
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Mr Heywood said it had been suggested that Mr Eccleston did not know the drugs would be dangerous to him – and 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.
Updates from the Cannock Chase Radio News Desk via Birmingham Mail - Cannock News