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  1. ITV Report

Pensioner found not guilty of 'mercy killing' of terminally ill husband

Mavis Eccleston has been found not guilty of the murder and manslaughter of her husband Dennis Eccleston. Credit: Family handout

Mavis Eccleston has been cleared at Stafford Crown Court of murder and manslaughter after being accused of the "mercy killing" of her husband Dennis Eccleston.

The 80-year-old, formerly of Huntington, near Cannock, gasped and started to cry after the unanimous verdicts were returned following a two-week trial.

Mr Eccleston had overdosed at the couple’s home in Raven Close in the early hours of 19 February.

The pair, who had been together for almost 60 years, were taken to hospital where the 81-year-old retired miner died on 20 February last year.

Mrs Eccelston was given an antidote for the drugs she had taken on the night.

The mother-of-three said her husband had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and kissed her on the hand in thanks after agreeing with his wish to die.

Jurors heard she had fetched medication from a nearby cupboard at her husband's request, the pensioner added: "It was an understanding between us. He had to tell me what I had got to do.”

After they had both taken medication, the court heard, Mrs Eccleston kissed her husband on the head, pulled a cover over him, and he said "goodnight darling" as she went to lie down on a sofa.

Credit: PA

Answering questions from defence, the defendant added that she had written a note saying the couple had decided to take their own lives, to explain their actions to their children.

"The next thing I knew I was in hospital," she told the court.

Jurors took around four hours to reach their not guilty verdicts after hearing claims that the prosecution of Mrs Eccleston was based on "throwaway remarks" between her and two nurses.

During a closing speech to the jury, the defence said Mrs Eccleston had immediately disputed what the nurses alleged she had said.

The barrister also submitted that it was a "fantasy" to suggest Mr Eccleston would not have asked his wife what medication he was taking.

Mrs Eccleston was arrested on 21 February, a day after her husband passed away while she held his hand in hospital.

A CPS spokesperson said:

These events were clearly very distressing for everyone concerned and I would express my gratitude to the family of Mr and Mrs Eccleston for the dignity and understanding they have demonstrated throughout this difficult process.

The decision to prosecute in this case was taken only after detailed and careful examination of all of the available evidence, including statements from family members and expert witnesses.

Following this review we concluded that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for the offences of murder and manslaughter and it was in the public interest to prosecute. We respect the verdicts reached today by the jury.

– CPS Spokesperson