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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo David Hunter arrives at Paphos District Court in Cyprus.
david hunter

British man in Cyprus convicted of manslaughter of terminally ill wife

David Hunter (now 76) was tried for the premeditated murder of his 74-year-old wife Janice.

A CYPRIOT COURT convicted a retired British miner of manslaughter today, instead of the more serious charge of premeditated murder, after he killed his wife to relieve her suffering from blood cancer.

David Hunter  (now 76) was tried for the premeditated murder of his 74-year-old wife Janice on 18 December, 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 10 years.

“It is 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 material time does not show premeditation for his illegal act, but on the contrary, an impulsive act without a clear mind,” the judge added.

“Premeditation implies planning of the heinous act. 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.

The court adjourned for mitigating arguments and possible sentencing on 27 July. The defence could argue that time served in custody during his trial is punishment enough.

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.

‘Tragic case’

“We are ecstatic with the result today,” said British lawyer Michael Polak of Justice Abroad which has been 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,” 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 repeated blood transfusions for 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 of over 50 years 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 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.