Mercy killing or murder? David Hunter is accused of killing terminally-ill wife in Cyprus

210422 DAVID HUNTER Family Photo
Credit: Family photo

David Hunter, a former miner from Northumberland, is in prison in Cyprus charged with murdering his wife Janice at their home in Paphos in December.

The 74-year-old claims he did it to end her unbearable pain from terminal blood cancer and she had asked him to help her die. He also tried to take his own life soon afterwards.

His lawyers had asked for the lesser charge of assisting suicide to be considered, however ahead of his trial starting in Paphos this week that request was rejected. 

As I and the ITV News crew wait to board the plane back to Newcastle at Paphos airport I speak to David's daughter Lesley on the phone, she is tearful. 

"It meant the world that Barry came over (David's old work friend). Dad was so down, and to see Barry made his year. Let’s just hope this nightmare will end soon."

Our conversation is interrupted by another incoming call.

"Hang on it’s the landline, it will be my dad." He rings her from prison every day. 

Next to me as we board the flight home is Barry Kent, David's friend who has also made the journey to Cyprus from Northumberland.

They used to work together down the mines at Ellington Colliery. 

David worked there for 40 years and when the mines shut he and Janice retired to Cyprus. 

“Davey Hunter is not a killer," says Barry.

"There’s not a bad bone in his body. You wouldn’t let a dog suffer if they were in pain. He loved her, he did it out of love.” 

Two days earlier on the wooden seats in Paphos District Court, David Hunter was brought into the public gallery by three police officers.

Wearing a mask, a black shirt, jeans and trainers, his eyes filled with tears as he saw his old friend Barry.

This was the first time David had seen anyone he knows since Janice died. (Lesley his daughter can’t fly from her home in Norwich due to her own health problems.) 

David was standing staring straight ahead waiting to be called into the witness box, he looked frail and thinner than in the photos I’ve seen. 

After lots of discussions in Greek, it's announced that the hearing is now postponed because lawyers need to get more evidence.

David is told this through a translator - he looks sad as he is escorted out of court. 

The next day, Barry then visited David in the jail at Nicosia.

“I'm hoping he might like these, I don’t think the food is great in there,” says Barry holding two chocolate bars.

He tells me this all feels a bit odd, he’s on this beautiful island in the sunshine and he’s going into a prison to visit his friend. 

He’s in there for about an hour, and comes out carrying the chocolate, they wouldn’t let him take them in. 

“It was worth it. He’s so thankful for the support.

"We talked a lot about Janice. It was hard to hear him at times, we both had masks on and spoke on a phone between a screen. Saying goodbye was hard.”

We then headed to Tremithousa, a 15-minute drive from Paphos harbour. This was Janice and David's home for 20 years and now the village is also Janice's resting place.

Barry Kent laying flowers down.

In the cemetery, Barry laid flowers next to a mound of earth marked out with stones. 

Above it is a small white plaque that says: "Janice Lesley Hunter. Beloved wife of David. Beloved mum of Lesley. Goodnight Sweetheart."

What happens next?

The trial is now due to begin on 16 June and could take months. 

The trial won’t be heard by a jury, like in the UK, but by three judges. I’ve spoken to many lawyers, journalists, ex-pats, Cypriots here about the case.

It’s being seen as a 'test case'. Parliament has just started discussions on legalising euthanasia. 

The Orthodox Church is very powerful in Cyprus and has political sway - it’s vehemently opposed to euthanasia. 

There’s a lot of sympathy for David Hunter, some say they would have done the same, others say it’s not right what has happened, but he should be allowed to come back to the UK, perhaps to an open prison. 

No one I have spoken to thinks he should spend his final days in a high-security jail in Cyprus.