Mavis Long (pictured above) was killed by her husband and her grabbed her around the neck and strangled her
A husband who ‘looked like he had the weight of the world of his shoulders’ has been jailed for more than three years for the manslaughter of his Alzheimer’s suffering wife who had started to ‘shout and throw cups at him’.
Frank and Mavis Long had been happily married for 57 years when the defendant, 80, killed his wife following an early morning argument at their property in west Wales.
On May the 9th Mrs Long, 77, had started an argument with Long and had knocked his glasses off the table.
Long had grabbed her round the next in the bedroom of the farm house they shared and shook her – when he released his grip she did not move.
Swansea Crown Court heard Mrs Long’s behaviour had become increasingly argumentative and ‘difficult’ in recent years, and though no formal diagnosis was made during her life a subsequent postmortem found evidence of ‘Alzheimer’s changes’ in her brain.
But a judge told Long there were thousands of couples around the UK living with Alzheimer’s which did not end in violence.
Blaen Pant farm in Pennant, Ceredigion (pictured above) where the couple had lived together since the mid 1990s
Paul Hobson, prosecuting, said Mrs Long and her husband had lived at Blaen Pant farm in Pennant, Ceredigion, since the mid-1990s after retiring from work and moving from the west Midlands.
He said neighbours and friends of the pair had reported changes in Mrs Long in recent years.
One reported how she would hear the woman shouting and swearing at her husband, and how ‘Brexit or somebody being interviewed on the television would get her worked up’.
Another said she had changed from the ‘loving and kind woman’ she had been when she first moved to the village, while another reported how her husband ‘looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders’ when he saw him.
The court heard Long would sometimes sleep in his Land Rover or in a guest house to get a break, but did not like to be too far away from his wife in case she needed help. Evidence from the couple’s GP showed Long had gone to the surgery on two occasions in December last year to raise concerns about his wife’s behaviour but no dementia assessments had been undertaken as they would have required her consent.
Swansea Crown Court heard Mrs Long’s behaviour had become increasingly argumentative and ‘difficult’ in recent years
Mr Hobson said on May 9 this year the couple rowed, and Long responded by leaving the house and driving to the west Midlands to see an old friend call Arthur Jones. At Mr Jones’ house he confided that his wife had started shouting at him and throwing cups, and he had left because he was afraid ‘he would do something nasty’.
Mr Jones offered his friend a bed for the night but Long refused, and drove back to west Wales though he was in a ‘plainly upset state’. Early the following morning Long was with his wife in the bedroom of their farm house. The prosecutor said Long would later describe how his wife began shouting at him and knocked his glasses off, breaking them.
He said Long said: ‘It just all kicked off, I just lost it, I just had enough, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I said ‘You snapped my glasses you silly so-and-so’. I grabbed her, grabbed her around the neck… I started shaking her to make her see sense.’
Long said he released his grip on his wife, and she did not move. He said: ‘I thought ‘Good god, I have done something bad. I’ve killed her, haven’t I?”
The court heard Long then called 999, telling the call handler: ‘I think my wife is dead, I think my wife is dead. I think I’ve done it. We have had a raging argument and I think I’ve strangled her.’
Police and paramedics were on the scene around 20 minutes later, and despite attempts to resuscitate Mrs Long she was pronounced dead at the scene. In his subsequent police interview Long told officers that the ‘red mist’ had descended, he had put his hands around her neck and shaken her and told her to ‘live in the real world’ not the ‘plastic world’ and ‘bubble’ she had been living in.
A post-mortem examination found injuries to Mrs Long’s neck and multiple rib fractures – though the rib injuries could have been down to the attempts by paramedics to revive her. An examination of her brain also found ‘Alzheimer’s changes’.
Mr Hobson said: ‘It is the prosecution case that this was a short-lived but violent loss of temper during which he [Mr Long] took hold of his wife by the neck with both hands and applied pressure.’
The barrister said there was no suggestion Long had ever been violent towards his wife before.
Long, of Blaen Pant farm, Pennant, Llanon, Ceredigion, had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter when he appeared in the dock for sentencing.
The court heard he has no previous convictions. Christopher Clee QC, for Long, said the couple had known each other for 60 years and been married for 57 of those. He said after retiring the couple had moved from the west Midlands to west Wales where they had bought and renovated the farm house.
He said the couple ‘enjoyed life, and enjoyed life together’ but over the last four or five years Mrs Long’s behaviour and personality began to change and she would routinely shout at her husband that she did not love him anymore, and the marriage was over.
Mr Clee said ‘tragic is a word often overused’ but ‘this is a tragic case – there is no doubt about that’.
He said: ‘At the age of 80 Mr Long finds himself before a court for the first time. Whatever sentence he receives today he will spend the remainder of his days with the knowledge that he killed the woman he spent 60 years, and loved.’
Judge Paul Thomas QC said he had no doubt Mrs Long had had become ‘difficult to live with’ in recent years as a result of her Alzheimer’s, a condition he called a ‘terrible disease’. But he said there must be thousands of couples around the country where one parter has Alzheimer’s and their husband or wife has to cope as best they can.
He said: ‘The simple fact here, Mr Long, is that you killed your wife. It was no mercy killing – you killed her because you snapped. You snapped because, in your words, the red mist came down and, on your account, she either deliberately or accidentally knocked your glasses off. You throttled her with both hands with such force that she died. She must have been terrified as you throttled her, unable to fight you off or get you to stop.’
The judge said he accepted Long had not meant to kill his wife, but said as an intelligent man he must have realised the risks of strangling her.
He said the appropriate sentence under the guidelines would have been one of eight or nine years – but that would be significantly reduced for his guilty plea as well as his previous good character, remorse, age, and the fact Long had ‘a very great deal to cope with’.
Long was sentenced to three years and four months – he will serve half that time in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death.
As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.
- Loss of short-term memory
- Behavioral changes
- Mood swings
- Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call
- Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
- Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior
- Eventually lose ability to walk
- May have problems eating
- The majority will eventually need 24-hour care
Source: Alzheimer’s Association