Pensioner, 90, stabbed sick wife in bed after ‘running out of patience’, court told

Scales of justice at the Old Bailey
Asked where Joan Turpin was injured the defendant said “by her heart'.

A 90-year-old man tried to murder his ailing wife as she slept after he “ran out of patience” with caring for her, a court has heard.

Edward Turpin allegedly attempted to stab Joan Turpin, also 90, to death at their home in Ringshall Road in Orpington, Greater London, on September 22 last year.

Jurors at the Old Bailey heard on Wednesday that Ms Turpin, who had lost her eyesight and needed a catheter, was dependent on her husband’s help.

Turpin felt he could “no longer cope” and, at around 1.30am, attacked his wife in their bed before turning the knife on himself, the court was told.

'We want to die'

In a 999 call made soon after the alleged stabbing, he is said to have told an operator: “I can’t take any more of it… She’s been ill and it’s got right on top of me.

“I tried to stab her and I’ve stabbed myself.”

Asked where Ms Turpin was injured, the defendant said, “by her heart,” jurors heard.

When the operator told the defendant they could tell him how to stem the bleeding, he allegedly replied: “No I don’t want to stop the bleeding. We want to die.”

Prosecutor Alistair Richardson said what followed was a “back-and-forth” conversation between the husband and the call handler, in which Turpin may have attempted to imply he and his wife were carrying out a “suicide pact”.

“You may think the defendant was attempting to give the impression that he and his wife were participating in a suicide pact. As you will hear, that is a suggestion that Joan Turpin robustly rejects,” he said.

“Throughout the call, in the background, you can hear Joan Turpin crying out for help.

“The defendant hung up the telephone. The operator telephoned back. The defendant answered angrily ‘what?’. He went on to explain that ‘she’s been ill, she’s come home, all she’s done is got on my nerves… I’ve just burst. I’ve just gone’.

“Shortly afterwards, the operator called back and they spoke again. Once again, the defendant says “I don’t want nothing done now. I want to die. She wants to die’.

“And once again, you will hear Joan Turpin in the background crying out for help.”

In an audio recording of the call played to court, a voice could be heard saying “Joan, stop it” and telling the operator he had tried to “stab myself to take myself out of it.”

Wearing a pair of headphones, Turpin sat in the well of the court on the first day of his trial, to “hopefully hear the evidence more clearly”, Judge Alexia Durran told jurors.

He denies attempted murder and an alternative charge of wounding with intent.

'Happily married for years'

Opening the case, Mr Richardson said: “In the early hours of September 22 last year, the defendant, Edward Turpin, tried to stab his wife, Joan, to death, whilst she slept.

“They had been happily married for years but Joan Turpin’s health had declined and she had lost her sight. The defendant was her carer, but by September 22 he could no longer cope. Instead of seeking help, his patience gone, he sought to kill her.”

Mr Richardson added: “They had been married for many years. You will hear Joan Turpin explain that their marriage had been a happy one, and the defendant had been a good husband.

“It makes the case and events that you will consider all the more sad.”

Jurors were told neither society nor the law should permit people to “take matters into our own hands”, no matter how hard it becomes to care for a spouse.

“There is no doubt that the case you are to try is a sad one – of a happy marriage that has become mired by poor health, and with the defendant no longer able to cope with caring for his wife,” the prosecutor said.

“But what neither society, nor the law, permit, even in the heat of the moment, is for us to take matters into our own hands, and seek to end someone else’s life. The answer to finding caring for our partner too much can never be to try to take their life.”

The trial continues.

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