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Jurors retire in trial of 80-year-old accused of husband’s ‘mercy killing’

Mavis Eccleston denies murder and manslaughter over the death of her husband Dennis.

Mavis Eccleston leaving Stafford Crown Court (Matthew Cooper/PA)
Mavis Eccleston leaving Stafford Crown Court (Matthew Cooper/PA)

By Matthew Cooper, PA

A jury has retired to consider verdicts on a pensioner accused of the “mercy killing” murder of her terminally ill husband.

Mavis Eccleston, 80, denies the murder and manslaughter of Dennis Eccleston, who prosecutors claim was unaware he was taking a potentially lethal overdose of prescription medication before his death in February last year.

A two-week trial at Stafford Crown Court has heard Mrs Eccleston was arrested a day after her husband passed away in hospital, after she allegedly made an admission to two mental health nurses.

The Crown alleges the couple had not formed a “clear and common” agreement to end their own lives at the time they took overdoses in the early hours of February 19 at their home in Raven Close, Huntington, near Cannock.

It is further alleged that an overdose was a significant cause of the death of Mr Eccleston, an 81-year-old retired miner who had refused treatment for bowel cancer and did not wish to be resuscitated by medical staff.

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Stafford Crown Court (David Jones/PA)

A jury of eight men and four women has been told Mrs Eccleston wrote a note before being found unconscious near her husband, which stated that they were of sound mind and both wished to end their lives.

Giving evidence in her defence last week, the mother-of-three said she and her husband of almost 60 years had prepared medication for the overdoses after he gave her instructions and “more or less begged” for her help.

After breaking down several times in the witness box, she told the court Dennis had kissed her hand in thanks before they both took medication, and had said “good night darling” as she went to lie down on a sofa.

During his closing speech to the jury, defence barrister Mark Heywood QC said Mrs Eccleston had immediately disputed what the nurses alleged she had said.

The barrister also submitted that it was a “fantasy” to suggest Mr Eccleston would not have asked his wife what medication he was taking.

In his closing remarks on behalf of the Crown, prosecution QC Tony Badenoch said: “Both of the nurses have given clear evidence that the defendant told them that Dennis did not know what he was being given.

“Their primary concern was the assessment of the risk to herself. The defendant was therefore not speaking to an investigator but to someone within the hospital environment.

“In the circumstances, isn’t it likely that she would have been comfortable enough to tell the nurses what had happened that night?”

Before asking the jury to retire, Judge Michael Chambers QC instructed them not to feel under any pressure of time during their deliberations.

The jury was sent away until 10.15am on Wednesday after deliberating for around two hours.

PA

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