David Hunter, 76, given two-year sentence for manslaughter but had spent 19 months in custody
A British retired miner, David Hunter, has been sentenced to two years in prison for the manslaughter of his seriously ill wife in Cyprus but has been released from custody due to time already served.
The 76-year-old had admitted suffocating Janice, his wife of 52 years, who had blood cancer, at their home on the island after she “begged him” to end her life.
Hunter, who has been on remand in Nicosia’s central prison since January 2021, will be released from custody immediately.
“We are very pleased with the sentence of the court today which means that David will be free imminently,” the British barrister Michael Polak, whose legal aid group, Justice Abroad, has coordinated Hunter’s defence, said on Monday.
“The sentencing exercise was not a simple one given that a case like this has never come before the courts of Cyprus before.”
Defence lawyers, arguing that a suspended sentence was appropriate, had submitted extensive case law from across the world, from Australia to Canada, New Zealand and the UK to “assist” the three-member district court after it found Hunter not guilty of premeditated murder – the charge he had faced – but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter earlier this month.
“The result of today’s hearing, and the court’s previous decision finding Mr Hunter not guilty of murder, is what we have been fighting for in this case and David is very pleased with the outcome today,” added Polak. “This has been a tragic case and difficult for all of those involved with it, but today’s decision was the right one and allows David and his family to grieve together.”
Throughout the case, the Briton, originally from Northumberland, had been supported by the couple’s only child, Lesley, who had spoken of her father’s stance when her mother, stricken by leukaemia and unable to move, had begged him to relieve her of what had become unbearable suffering.
On 18 December 2020, Hunter finally submitted to that request, asphyxiating his wife in their village home outside Paphos, a coastal resort town popular with expat Britons. He then tried to kill himself after calling his brother back in the UK to explain what had happened.
The couple, who first met as teenagers, had been together for more than 50 years. They moved to Cyprus for what they had hoped would be a “dream life abroad”, but Janice’s death led to almost two years of legal anguish for Hunter in a country where euthanasia is banned and considered taboo by the powerful Greek Orthodox church.
Hunter, who has lost considerable weight, has spent eight months sharing a cell with 11 other men in Nicosia central prison, the Mediterranean island’s only jail. On Monday, he was told he would return to the prison but would be released with immediate effect because under the island’s legal system where eight months counts for a year in prison he had served his sentence.
The pensioner had told the Guardian, during proceedings that were often emotional, that if he was ever set free he would first visit his wife’s grave in a cemetery on the edge of the village where she died. “I want to stay in Cyprus,” he said. “This is the country we chose to move to and I want to be close to her.”
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