How support offered by Cyprus' new hospice came too late for David and Janice Hunter

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More than 18 months after a British man killed his terminally-ill wife, progress is being made on a new hospice which could have made all the difference to the couple of 56 years.

The high-profile murder trial of David Hunter has opened the door to public discussion about the subjects of euthanasia and palliative care in Cyprus, where he lived with his wife Janice for 20 years before he killed her to end her suffering.

The former miner, from Ashington in Northumberland, has been found guilty of manslaughter for killing Mrs Hunter at their retirement home near the coastal resort of Paphos in December 2021 - at a time when accessing medical care was difficult due to the pandemic.

He was cleared of murder following a protracted trial, during which Hunter had said his terminally ill wife had “begged him” to end her life.

There is not much palliative care on the island, according to Paphos retiree Chris Jones. He is currently turning a two-storey building into a charity-hospice and believes the Hunters' situation could have been very different had the service been in place at the time.

He said: "Had we been open I am confident that she would have met the criteria and if that were the case, David would have had the psychological, emotional and physical support that he needed.

"It makes me very sad that someone who very obviously loved his wife and was obviously shaken by everything that went around at a time when Covid had cut us off from everyone else. It just doesn't bear thinking about.

"When I think about what I would have done, I'm glad I don't have to answer that."

Chris Jones is building a hospice on the island and believes the service would have been a great help to the Hunters. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The couple had moved to Cyprus more than 20 years ago to retire but it 2021, Mrs Hunter was diagnosed with incurable blood cancer.

During the trial, Hunter broke down in tears stating that he would never have taken his wife's life unless she asked him to.

“For five or six weeks before she died she was asking me to help her," he said. "She was asking me more every day.

“In the last week, she was crying and begging me. Every day she asked me a bit more intensely to do it.”

Cypriot judges accepted that the 76-year-old had a loving relationship with his wife and that she had that morning asked for him to end her life.

David Hunter said he would never have killed his wife had she not begged him too. Credit: Family photo

However, the option to do so legally was not available.

Cyprus is an Orthodox Christian country where euthanasia is banned. Changing the law to allow it under medical supervision is being debated by the island's parliament. 

Sally-Anne Silverwood Stagge, who lives on the island and has spent the last 18 months looking after Mrs Hunter's grave, is sceptical about whether the talks will go anywhere as the church remains strongly opposed.

"There are more calls for euthanasia and such to be allowed in the country but it is ultimately the church's decision," she said. "I don't think they will allow that it is not in their ethos.

"You can't change that. It's not our country. We might like living here but we need to adapt to them we cannot expect them to adapt to us."

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