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Man, 95, spared jail over attempted mercy killing of 88-year-old wife

A 95-year-old man who bludgeoned his wife of 65 years with a lump hammer in an attempted mercy killing has been spared jail.

Denver Beddows attacked wife Olive, 88, at their home in Warrington, Cheshire, after she begged him to take her life because she did not want to die in a care home or a hospital.

Mrs Beddows suffered multiple skull fractures and lacerations but is making "a good recovery" in hospital.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the couple's marriage was "perfect and happy" but both their physical and mental health suffered after Mrs Beddows was involved in a car accident about nine months before the attack on February 4.

Mrs Beddows dreaded being take into care and repeatedly asked the defendant, who had suffered long-term depression himself, to kill her before, under "immense pressure", he hit her with a pan before he struck a number of blows to her head with a hammer.

Sentencing the pensioner - who had been in custody since the incident - the Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, said a judge's last remark in a case was usually the actual sentence but he told Beddows immediately that he would not be going to jail so as not to "prolong your agony".

Judge Goldstone noted that his wife had forgiven Beddows and that she wished to be reunited with him.

He said: "That is indeed true love, no doubt earned by you over 65 years of devoted and loyal, loving married life, described by you as perfect and happy.

"It is an irony that, following your attack upon her, you rued the fact that she had not died because you regarded yourself as having failed her by failing in your efforts to kill her.

"There is no place in a case of this kind for the inflexible application of sentencing guidelines and the guidelines acknowledge as much in the case of what would have been a mercy killing had it succeeded.

"Whether you will be able to spend the rest of your days together is not a decision for me. I know that will not be facilitated or allowed to happen if the authorities consider that your wife remains at risk from a further attack from you, whatever your motives may be."

Beddows, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to attempted murder, was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for two years.

Anya Horwood, prosecuting, said Mrs Beddows had become "more anxious" in the weeks preceding the attack, with her mental health described as "fragile".

The couple's son, also named Denver, found "blood everywhere" when he visited their home in Dam Lane, Woolston, and heard his father say: "I tried to kill your mother."

His parents were sitting on the bathroom floor with the defendant cradling his wife with her head on a pillow, the court heard.

Later Beddows told a police officer that his wife was "going mad" and went on to say: "Why did she not die? Don't try to bring her back."

He went on to say: "I have made a mess of it and now she is still suffering … Why didn't she die? She is the most beautiful woman in the world and I have made it worse. I would happily be a murderer.

"She has been like that for weeks. I couldn't keep it up. She was petrified about going into hospital.

"She didn't want to live. I am sorry. I loved her dearly."

Philip Tully, defending, said: "He had not agreed to end his wife's life at the first request but did so following repeated requests at a time when he was in a state of exhaustion and despair in relation to his wife's well-being."

He submitted that his client had acted spontaneously with the "briefest intention to end his wife's life".

Psychiatric reports had showed Beddows - a man with a history of depression dating back to 1962 - was "clearly under a great degree of mental strain and was not thinking straight", he added.

Mr Tully said: "In my submission there would be no purpose in sending this man to immediate custody. He is a man who loved his wife dearly and describes his 65 years of marriage as 'perfect and happy'.

"He says 'We just loved each other and enjoyed other's company. I loved her to bits. We never had any problems'."

The defendant, who had no previous convictions, had been called up at the age of 19 to serve in the RAF and ran a car body repairs business from 1946 to 1986 before retirement, the court heard.

Mr Tully said: "It is not expected that Mrs Beddows will be in a fit state to return home even if she wanted to. I am told that although she had been concerned about being taken into hospital, in fact the hospital where she is at the moment she likes and she is being well cared for.

"The family have been very supportive. His son lives a very short distance away from the family home and he could provide some assistance to Mr Beddows and keep an eye on him."

Mr Beddows junior was at court for sentence but was absent from the courtroom because he had found the proceedings "extremely distressful".

A frail Beddows listened to the proceedings via headphones from the dock.

Judge Goldstone told him: "Although this was a terrible crime, the blame which attaches to you for what you did is far outreached by the tragedy of the situation and the circumstances in which you found yourself in.

"Your acts were acts of last resort because you had failed to persuade her that she was going nowhere.

"Sadly, cases of this kind are no longer unusual or exceptional as once they were. The increase in their numbers might suggest that the courts' emphasis should be on punishment and deterrence rather than the exercise of compassion.

"But the reality of the situation is that each case of this kind will turn on its own facts. There may be elderly defendants, even very elderly defendants, whose previous history or whose offending makes the imposition of an immediately custodial sentence wholly appropriate.

"Your character built up over 95 years leaves me in no doubt that this court will not see the like of you again."

Beddows later left court without comment.

In a statement his family said:" As a family we are trying to come to terms with the tragic events that took place on February 4.

"The last 12 months have been particularly difficult as we all attempted to cope with Mum's mental illness, which is still yet to be diagnosed.

"At present we are supporting both Mum and Dad, and ask for some privacy whilst we come to terms with the situation."

Det Insp Paul Hughes, of Cheshire Police, said: "Olive amazingly survived her attack although she does remain in hospital with serious injuries. She has shown amazing determination and courage to provide herself with the best opportunity for recovery with the help of marvellous medical staff.

"This case has been difficult for all involved and has significantly impacted on Olive, Denver and their family. The ordeal has truly tested them. The courage they have shown from receiving the phone call from Denver on the Saturday morning, through to sentencing has been truly remarkable.

"Out of the blue, lives changed on that Saturday back in February and I hope they can now begin to try and rebuild their lives and eventually come to terms with the events of that heartbreaking day which had such a devastating impact on all family members."

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