Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man James Weir admits trying to smother his ailing 90-year-old dad with a pillow in failed mercy killing

Belfast Telegraph reporter Allan Preston (right) speaks to James Weir at his home yesterday
Belfast Telegraph reporter Allan Preston (right) speaks to James Weir at his home yesterday

By Paul Higgins

A North Belfast man has admitted trying to murder his dying 90-year-old father in a nursing home in an apparent failed mercy killing.

With a jury sworn in ready to hear evidence on Tuesday, James Anderson Weir (67) had been due to go on trial at Downpatrick Crown Court.

But instead, defence QC Niall Hunt asked trial judge Geoffrey Miller QC for the charge to be put to Weir again.

It was then that Weir, from Manor Street, admitted trying to kill his father James Weir Snr on November 24 last year.

An earlier court heard how staff at the Newtownards care home contacted police after they saw Weir holding a pillow above his father's face, believing he was trying to "suffocate" the elderly man, who had dementia.

Mr Weir Snr, who has since passed away, was examined by a doctor and taken to hospital while his intoxicated son was arrested.

In court on Tuesday, Judge Miller freed Weir on continuing bail and, ordering a pre-sentence report, told the would-be killer he would pass sentence in the New Year.

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On Tuesday night, Mr Weir declined to comment about his decision to change his plea in court.

Speaking from his home in north Belfast, he would only say: "No, I don't want to talk any more about that."

A previous hearing in the High Court heard how Weir allegedly told the Co Down care home staff he could no longer watch his father suffer.

Weir had been drinking beer and whiskey in the care home beforehand, prosecutors had claimed at the earlier hearing.

Police were called to Blair House Care Home in Newtownards on November 24 amid claims a nurse saw him holding a cushion over the alleged victim's face.

She believed it had been an attempt to suffocate the elderly man and removed the cushion, the court heard.

A crime scene was established and Mr Weir Snr was moved to another bedroom before being taken to hospital. According to Crown lawyer David McClean, the nurse claimed that the accused told her he was sorry she had to witness an incident he thought had been the right thing to do for his father.

"He said he couldn't watch his father suffering any longer," the barrister added.

It was also alleged that he told his sister: "I tried to smother daddy... the nurse pulled the pillow off me."

Weir was arrested and claimed he couldn't remember the incident due to alcohol.

He informed police he had been on holiday in Turkey, drinking every day, and was made aware that his father was dying.

Mr McClean said Weir allegedly spent the night before the suspected murder bid drinking Guinness and whiskey that he brought into the nursing home.

Defence counsel Conan Rea had confirmed the alleged victim had dementia and was not believed to be conscious during the incident.

Weir's brother and sister had both left the room at the time he is accused of attempting to smother their father, the barrister said.

The defendant's family had supported him and wanted him released from custody after his arrest.

Mr Justice McAlinden described it as "obviously a tragic case".

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