My heart goes out to David Hunter, facing charges of premeditated murder in a Cyprus court for killing his wife, Janice, who suffered excruciating pain and despair as a result of blood cancer.
I know only too well what David went through as his wife of 57 years begged him to help her die.
Unless you’ve been there yourself, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it’s like to sit next to someone you love and hear them cry out in pain and misery.
To know how humiliated they feel about being made to wear nappies, having to lie in a chair — or, in my mother’s case, a bed — unable to get up, unable to use their arms or legs; to watch them get thinner and thinner as eating becomes impossible and to feel utterly powerless to do anything to help.
David has explained how his beloved wife asked him over and over again to help her die.
David Hunter faces charges of premeditated murder in a Cyprus court for killing his wife, Janice, who suffered excruciating pain and despair as a result of blood cancer
My 80-year-old mother, rapidly deteriorating because of the effects of Parkinson’s disease, begged me for almost a year to end her terrible suffering. ‘Please, Jen, please, please help me to die. I can’t go on like this. I just want to die.’
It broke my heart to have to tell her, as gently as I could, that there was nothing I could do.
It is illegal in this country to help someone take their own life, no matter how much that person longs for their agony to be over. I couldn’t do it, I told her. I had children who still needed my care. I couldn’t risk a prison sentence.
I knew I would be caught, too. My mother’s last months were spent in a nursing home. There were people around all the time who would know what I had done.
I also had no idea how I could end a life. Could I put a pillow over her face? No. I wasn’t even sure I could bring myself to do it.
I’ve often wondered since she died — naturally, having suffered so terribly for more than a year — what I might have done had we been at home. Might I have tried to find a way of helping her go with some form of lethal medication? I think I may have.
Her pleas for help were the most powerful, disturbing and enduring words ever uttered to me.
David Hunter did find a way and summoned the courage to give the wife he’d loved since their teenage years what she wanted. He put his hands over her mouth and nose and suffocated her.
David Hunter made no attempt to conceal what he’d done. After his wife died, he kissed her forehead before calling his brother in England to confess
Jenni Murray’s 80-year-old mother, rapidly deteriorating because of the effects of Parkinson’s disease, begged her for almost a year to end her suffering
He hadn’t wanted to do it, he told the court. ‘I would never in a million years have killed my wife if she had not asked for it. She wasn’t just my wife, she was my best friend.’
He made no attempt to conceal what he’d done. After she died, he kissed her forehead and told her he loved her before calling his brother in England to confess.
David tried to take his own life and says he cannot remember being arrested or giving interviews to the police.
The country he and Janice had chosen for their retirement — they moved to Cyprus for a ‘dream life’ — has no truck with the concept of dignity in dying. This case has highlighted the predominantly Greek Orthodox nation’s fierce opposition to assisted suicide.
It’s been deeply upsetting to read David’s story. I know what it’s like to accompany a loved one to the diagnosis of a deadly disease.
Nothing can be more stressful than seeing them struggle to attend constant appointments, endure treatments which appear not to be working and then finally, in David’s case, be left alone at home during a pandemic, trying to deliver medication only to find your loved one can’t keep down painkillers and has become too thin and frail to cope with an injection.
I have no doubt that when he speaks about her constant crying, screaming and pleading for a death she knew would be inevitable, he is telling the truth. My mother knew her death was inevitable and could see no point in suffering unbearable pain before it took her. She wanted the end to come now.
David didn’t want Janice to die. I didn’t want my mother to die. I only wanted to alleviate her agony, as I’m sure David did when his wife’s crying and begging became overwhelming.
He did not plan or premeditate murder; having said no to her pleas dozens of times, he finally relented and helped her die. In my view, it was an act of love and compassion.
No one should have to go through what this poor man has endured. A terminally ill patient should be able to ask the medical profession for help in achieving a dignified death. My mother should have been able to ask for it and have me and our family around her. As it was, she died alone.
At 74, Janice should have had a peaceful assisted death with her loving husband and daughter holding her hand. David should not be accused of murder.
So many civilized countries have changed their laws to allow ‘physician-assisted suicide’ under certain circumstances, enabling the dying to decide the right time to end their lives.
I shall go on campaigning for the law to change in this country and I’m encouraged that campaigners in Cyprus hope the case of David and Janice Hunter will change ‘outdated’ views over the right to die there, too.
There’s so much racism expressed in the new BBC1 drama Ten Pound Poms, about the Brits who left for Australia. Writer, Danny Brocklehurst, was warned the attacks on Aboriginal people ‘might be triggering’. How brave of him to insist they stayed in the script to reflect the truth of the 1950s.
Oh, to look like Martha Stewart at 81!
American cook and TV personality Martha Stewart, 81, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit wearing a white one-piece
Wise words from the American cook and TV personality, Martha Stewart. She’s appearing, at the age of 81, on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in, yes, a swimsuit. ‘I think that all of us should think about good living, successful living and not about ageing,’ she says. ‘The whole ageing thing is so boring.’ How true, Martha, but so few of us get to look like you!
Well, Princess Diana turns out to have been a naughty girl. Two cards sent to the King of Greece are to be auctioned. One reads, ‘Adam came first . . . Men always do!’ The other’s worse. Who’d have thought it of such a nicely brought up young woman?
Kate — and Mia — deserve awards
Kate Winslet starred alongside her daughter, Mia Threapleton, in I Am Ruth and was awarded a TV Bafta for her performance
A much-deserved TV Bafta for Kate Winslet for I Am Ruth. Brilliant performances from her and her daughter, Mia Threapleton, and no nepotism there. Mia was auditioned separately and, having seen the film, I can vouch for the fact that she deserved the role. Both highlighted the negative impact of social media on teens, and as she accepted her award Kate called for ‘people in power’ to ‘criminalise harmful content’. With the Online Safety Bill currently going through the House of Lords, it’s a timely political plea.
Here’s how to show you’re a real man
Kevin Sinfield carried his former rugby team-mate Rob Burrow over the Leeds marathon finish line four years after Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease
Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield were burly rugby team-mates for years before Rob was found to have motor neurone disease in 2019. Sinfield has since raised more than £8 million for associated charities, and at the weekend carried his friend over a marathon finish line after pushing Rob in his wheelchair for more than four hours. The best demonstration ever of admirable masculinity.