A British man accused of murdering his terminally ill wife has today had his trial in Cyprus adjourned until June , as the prosecution rejected an appeal to lessen the charge against him to assisted suicide.
David Hunter, 74, is accused of the mercy killing of his 75-year-old wife Janice in December last year. The couple were married for 56 years, and she had been suffering from terminal leukaemia since 2016.
Mr Hunter’s lawyers today called for the adjournment of proceedings as they had not received all evidence submitted to the court, such as the medical examiner’s forensic report.
David Hunter (left), 74, is accused of the mercy killing of his 75-year-old wife Janice (right) last year. The couple were married for 56 years, and she had been suffering from terminal leukaemia since 2016. He is currently being held in Cyprus
Hunter is represented by UK-based firm Justice Abroad, which said on Monday that the Cypriot prosecutor had rejected their request to drop the murder accusation in favour of the lesser charge of assisted suicide.
‘We have been informed by the prosecution that these submissions have been rejected, but no reason was given,’ Michael Polak of Justice Abroad said in a statement.
‘We will continue to request that the prosecution take the principled decision so that we can bring David back home to his daughter in the United Kingdom as soon as possible.’
The criminal court in the southwestern coastal city of Paphos on Monday adjourned Hunter’s trial until June 16. Mr Hunter will die in prison if found guilty of murder.
Due to the seriousness of the charge – which carries a life sentence – the court ruled that the defendant should remain in prison until his next hearing.
He has pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife.
Mr and Mrs Hunter, pictured here on their wedding day, had retired to Cyprus before she was diagnosed with Leukaemia
It is believed to be the first case involving assisted suicide in Cyprus.
Hunter is a former miner from Northumberland, England, who retired to Cyprus with his wife, Janice.
They had been together for 56 years and were teenage sweethearts. Janice Hunter was terminally ill and suffering from leukaemia since 2016.
She was losing her sight, couldn’t eat or drink and had constant diarrhoea that meant she needed nappies – but was only given paracetamol by doctors.
‘This was a terminal disease that had taken the life of her sister, and the pain she was under was getting worse,’ said Justice Abroad.
‘When she died in their flat in Paphos in December 2021, David Hunter was left stricken with grief, and he tried to end his own life.’
According to Paphos police, the Briton ‘confessed to killing his 75-year-old wife by blocking her nose and mouth with his hands’. He told police she was ill with leukaemia and that he ‘could not see her suffer anymore’.
David Hunter (right) poses on holiday with wife Janice (centre) and their daughter Lesley (left)
Yesterday, tender love letters emerged that show the devotion of a British pensioner to the wife he is accused of murdering.
The Daily Mail saw the last anniversary cards the couple wrote to each other months before Mrs Hunter’s death, in Paphos, on December 18.
They prove the family’s insistence Mr Hunter was deeply in love with his wife and would never do anything to harm her.
On the envelope of his card, the retired miner wrote: ‘When I look up and see you, my world is filled with pleasure.
‘Through all the years we’ve shared, you have been my greatest treasure.’
Inside, another poem he penned reads: ‘I love you today as I have from the start, and I’ll love you forever with all of my heart.’
In a message to her husband, Mrs Hunter writes: ‘Another year for being with the best husband in the world. Love you forever, Janice xxx.’
Tear-jerking letters exchanged by the pair proving their devotion were passed to the Daily Mail
He has since told his daughter, Lesley Cawthorne, 49, that his wife made her wishes to die clear and talked about it every day in the last six weeks of her life.
‘To begin with, he tried to dissuade her, then he said he would go with her,’ she said. ‘He loved her so much… I’m horrified they were so desperate they thought that dying together was the only way out.’
Lesley, who works in financial advice, has been appealing for the charge to be downgraded through UK-based law firm Justice Abroad.
Speaking to the Daily Mail last month, Mrs Cawthorne said she still supports her father despite what happened and the pair had been inseparable.
‘He always said that from the moment he saw her, he never looked at another woman,’ she said. ‘They laughed together, always had something to say to each other; they never left one another’s side.
‘Dad is a good man. He doesn’t deserve to die on his own in a foreign prison. He is so lonely. After 56 years with Mum, it’s like missing a limb.
Another moving letter from David to Janice says: ‘I love you today as I have from the start’
The loving daughter said her father has claimed Janice was ‘talking about it (ending her life) daily’.
‘To begin with, he tried to dissuade her, then he said he would go with her,’ she said.
‘He loved her so much. He has nightmares now when he can still hear her screaming in pain, and they had to deal with that on their own. I’m horrified they were so desperate they thought that dying together was the only way out.’
The tragic events came to light when Mr Hunter rang his little brother in the UK after Janice’s death to say he had taken an overdose of pills, and asking him to ‘look after Lesley’.
His brother contacted police in the UK, who in turn contacted Interpol and they helped arrange an emergency response in Cyprus.
The former colliery worker was rushed to hospital in Paphos, where he spent four days in intensive care before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital.
The Cypriot parliament is discussing whether to legalise euthanasia, a taboo subject among the majority Greek Orthodox community of the island.
But even prison guards have taken pity on Mr Hunter – who retired to the island from Northumberland with his wife – and privately told his daughter that they believe he should not be facing murder charges.
It comes after Cypriot prosecutors charged a British woman with making up a rape claim there.
The 21-year-old went from victim to accused after police coerced a ‘confession’, but she was acquitted this year after pressure from the UK media.
If you have been affected by this story, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.
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