Hale pensioner who killed cancer-stricken wife in 'act of love' given suspended sentence
A pensioner who slit his wife's throat in a suicide pact before trying to kill himself has walked free from court after a judge said he was 'entirely satisfied [he] acted out of love'.
Graham Mansfield, 73, said he and his wife Dyanne had agreed he would kill her in a suicide pact when her terminal cancer got 'too bad'.
Manchester Crown Court heard the pair had made the agreement after his wife of more than 40 years begged her husband not to let her "wither away on tubes" in a hospital.
Dyanne, 71, was found slumped in a chair at the bottom of their garden, with a note left nearby addressed to police reading: "We have decided to take our own lives."
Mansfield was found guilty of manslaughter, but walked free from court after a judge sentenced him to two years in jail, suspended for two years.
Sentencing him, Mr Justice Goose told the defendant: "The circumstances of this case are a tragedy for you and are exceptional in the experiences of this court.
"You were under immense emotional pressure.
"I am entirely satisfied that you acted out of love for your wife."
Dyane's brother, Peter Higson, who attended the trial throughout in support of his brother-in-law, said he could 'understand' Mansfield's predicament.
"I miss my sister terribly, " he said in a statement. "Her death did not come as a shock to me because I know she was very ill and in great pain.
"However the manner of her death did come as a shock. Having said that, I can understand the predicament that Graham found himself in.
"As I have previously stated, I found myself in a similar situation when my own wife died from cancer.
"I don't hold any malice against Graham and will continue to value his friendship in the future.
"I have supported him since his arrest. I understand that a prosecution had to take place."
Mr Higson said he would have been 'very unhappy' if Mansfield had been jailed. "I believe that Graham has suffered more than enough and that he will never get over this ordeal."
Mansfield denied murder and manslaughter, and Mr Justice Goose told jurors for him to be convicted of murder they had to be sure he used unlawful violence which caused the death of his wife, and that he intended to kill her.
But the case could be reduced to manslaughter if they believed it was 'more likely than not' that the suicide pact was a joint agreement between the couple, which Mrs Mansfield had voluntarily agreed to and that her husband had made a genuine attempt on his own life.
The judge, who told jurors they must apply the law despite 'however sympathetic you may feel', said: "It remains unlawful and may reduce this offence from murder to manslaughter."
Jurors took 90 minutes to return the unanimous verdict following a four day trial.
Mansfield, a former baggage handler at Manchester Airport, showed no emotion as the jury foreperson delivered the verdict.
During the four-day trial the court heard Mansfield was found lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen of his home, in Hale, Greater Manchester, after calling police.
He told officers: "My wife has had terminal cancer and we made a pact to kill ourselves. I think I have I killed my wife and I am trying to kill myself and it's all gone wrong.
"You need to come in by the side gate. The doors are locked at the front... I don't need the front door battering in."
When Greater Manchester Police arrived he then begged officers to 'just leave me to die'.
The couple had been married for more than 40 years and had a 'very happy and loving relationship', the trial was told.
But Mansfield said their lives had been 'turned upside down' when his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2020.
"We had a perfect relationship, we loved one another," Mr Mansfield later told police. "We wanted to live with one another for the rest of our lives and forever if possible.
"It all changed when Dyanne was diagnosed with cancer." Mr Mansfield said they agreed on a suicide pact following the diagnosis.
Mansfield told the court he and his wife had agreed they would end their lives together when her lung cancer became 'too bad' for her.
He said: "Dyanne said to me ‘Graham, this is the best I am ever going to be now. When things get bad for me, will you kill me?’
"It was the saddest words I had ever heard.
"I said 'Dyanne, I will. On one condition. That I go with you'.
"She said 'there is nothing wrong with you, there is no reason'. I said 'Dyanne, I can’t live without you'."
His barrister, Richard Orme, asked Mansfield: “Were you intending to keep that promise?”
He replied: “Yes, most definitely, because Dyanne was the most important, precious thing in the world and without her there was nothing.”
He said his wife, a retired import/export clerk, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1999 which led to the removal of a kidney in 2004.
Years of uninterrupted good health followed, he said, as they later enjoyed an active retirement together.
He said 2020 was the "start of another fantastic year" with three holidays booked and a 40th wedding anniversary trip planned to the United States.
But ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown his wife developed a “tickly cough”.
In September, a doctor told her a scan had showed she had lung cancer and it had spread to her lymph nodes.
Mansfield said: “That was basically when our nightmare began.”
A week later they were told the cancer had reached Stage 4. Mansfield added: “We knew there was no Stage 5. There were tears in our eyes. I was inconsolable.”
Mansfield said the couple were “shell-shocked” when they were told in October that she had two years at most to live.
He said his wife's condition deteriorated following a bout of chemotherapy - which 'plagued her mind'.
She struggled to swallow, was losing weight and her voice was 'croaking', he told jurors.
She could only eat small portions of soft food and, after cancelling chemotherapy sessions, Mr Mansfield said he could see his wife going 'downhill'.
"I thought she was basically dying in front of me, I felt helpless," he said.