NICOSIA, Cyprus — A British man was freed immediately despite a Cyprus court sentencing him on Monday to two years in prison for killing his wife in their retirement home because he wanted to spare her the pain from her illness.
Defense lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou told The Associated Press that Cyprus Prisons Department authorities tabulated the time 76-year-old David Hunter had already spent in custody since the December 2021, killing and decided to release him immediately.
The court had earlier this month convicted Hunter of manslaughter after accepting testimony that his decision to suffocate his wife Janice was a made on the spur of the moment because he could no longer stand seeing her weeping in pain from a type of blood cancer she feared would develop into full-blown leukemia.
State prosecutor Andreas Hadjikyrou told The Associated Press that the court took into account that Hunter, 76, acted “out of love” to save his wife. She was suffering from a blood ailment when he closed her mouth and nose with his hands as she sat in a recliner in their Paphos home.
It also took into consideration Hunter’s advanced age and that he had no previous criminal record.
Justice Abroad, a group that defends Britons facing legal troubles in foreign countries, initially said in a statement that Hunter could be released by Aug. 18 after already having spent more than 18 months in custody.
“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,” said Michael Polak from Justice Abroad.
Hunter had faced a charge of premeditated murder, but the court found in its July 21 ruling that the prosecution didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was premeditation in his actions.
The court had accepted witness testimony that Janice feared her blood ailment would develop into full-blown leukemia and had repeatedly pleaded with her husband to take her life because she didn’t want to share the fate of her sister, who died of the disease.
Hunter attempted to take his own life by consuming a large amount of pills after suffocating his wife, but medical staff saved his life.
The court cited expert testimony that Janice Hunter suffered from myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood cancer which “to a large degree” – as much as 45% – could turn into leukemia, although there was no proof that she had indeed developed the disease because no definitive tests were conducted.
But the court said both husband and wife believed that Janice would develop it because of her sister’s fate.
David Hunter’s earlier assurances to Janice that he would help her fulfill her wish to end her life and not suffer anymore didn’t indicate any premeditation, the court said.
Hadjikyrou said defense lawyers had rejected a plea deal in December 2022 for the defendant to plead guilty to manslaughter because they insisted the facts of the case include an agreement Hunter and his wife allegedly made for him to take her life. He said the court didn’t accept that such an agreement had indeed been made.
Charalambidou said it was the Cypriot attorney-general who scrapped the plea deal because he wouldn’t accept as fact that Janice had repeatedly asked her husband to take her life.
Hadjikyrou said the Cyprus attorney-general has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the sentence.
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