Briton to plead guilty to manslaughter of terminally ill wife in Cyprus after 56 years together

World

A British pensioner is set to plead guilty to the manslaughter of his terminally ill wife in Cyprus as the murder charge he faced is “no longer on the table”, his lawyer has said.

David Hunter has been on trial over the death of 75-year-old Janice Hunter on the island in December 2021.

The former miner from Northumberland admits killing Mrs Hunter but his legal team have argued it was an assisted suicide, not murder.

Mrs Hunter, who had terminal blood cancer, was suffocated by her husband who then tried to end his own life by taking an overdose.

A trial at Paphos District Court was postponed last month after Mr Hunter’s lawyers asked for the murder charge against him to be reduced to manslaughter.

A previous request for a charge of assisted suicide was rejected by the Cypriot attorney general.

At a hearing on Friday, the prosecution and defence announced they had agreed facts in the case and Mr Hunter will enter a guilty plea to manslaughter on 5 December, according to Justice Abroad, which is representing the Briton.

David Hunter is facing trial in Cyprus accused of murdering his wife Janice. Pic: Lesley Cawthorne
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Lawyers for Mr Hunter asked for a murder charge to be reduced to manslaughter. Pic: Lesley Cawthorne

Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, said: “We are very pleased that the murder charge is no longer on the table as our objective all along has been to get David out of prison and back home as soon as possible.

“At the next hearing David’s strong mitigation, such as his good character and long and loving relationship with his wife, will be put before the court.

“We hope given the particular facts of this case, and case law in similar cases from around the world, that the eventual sentence is one that the court could consider suspending.”

Mr Polak said he expected sentencing to take place before Christmas and that if Mr Hunter receives a suspended sentence, the Briton will be allowed to return to the UK.

Janice and David Hunter, pictured on their wedding day, were together for 56 years. Pic: Lesley Cawthorne
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Janice and David Hunter pictured on their wedding day. Pic: Lesley Cawthorne

Speaking before the hearing, the Hunters’ daughter Lesley Cawthorne told Sky News: “It’s making the best – a poor best – of a very bad situation.

“If it’s a murder charge and he’s found guilty, it’s a mandatory life sentence. There’s no wriggle room there. There’s no room for leniency.

“With a manslaughter charge, there is the potential… for them to be more lenient.”

Mrs Cawthorne has said her father insists his wife made clear that she “wanted it to end” because she did not want a “long, protracted death”.

Lesley Cawthorne (L) pictured with her parents at Italy's Lake Garda in 1988. Pic: Lesley Cawthorne
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Lesley Cawthorne (L) pictured with her parents at Italy’s Lake Garda in 1988. Pic: Lesley Cawthorne

She said Mr Hunter was “haunted” by memories of her mother “screaming in pain” during her battle with cancer and a catalogue of other health problems.

Mr and Mrs Hunter, who had been together for 56 years and were teenage sweethearts, had moved to Cyprus 20 years ago after their retirement.

Following his arrest, Mrs Cawthorne said her father had been held in a prison cell with up to 11 other men.

Euthanasia is illegal in Cyprus, although the country’s parliament has begun debating changes to the law.

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