David Hunter released from prison after killing wife in Cyprus

Katie Cole reports from Cyprus on the former miner, who has been released from prison after being sentenced to two years for killing his terminally ill wife

A former miner from Northumberland has been released from prison after being sentenced to two years for manslaughter after killing his terminally ill wife at their home in near Paphos, Cyprus in December 2021.

David Hunter, from Ashington, had denied murder and claimed his wife Janice Hunter, who had blood cancer, had "begged him" to end her life and he had done so to end her suffering.

On Friday 21 July, a panel of three judges concluded Hunter was guilty of manslaughter.

Today they sentenced him to two years in prison. However, he has already served 19 months in custody and has been released, his lawyers have said.

During the sentencing hearing on Monday 31 July, the judge said: “No one can choose when someone’s life will end. We take into account sentence must send that message to society.

"We determine a jail sentence is unavoidable.”

Speaking outside court, Hunter said he “can’t describe” how he was feeling and thanked people for their support.

David and Janice Hunter had been together for more than 50 years. Credit: Family

Speaking on the steps of Paphos District Court, a visibly emotional Mr Hunter said: “I’d like to say thank you to all the people who’ve donated to me, and especially my mates and my workmates. I don’t know where I would be without them.”

The former miner added: “When you work in a colliery, you’re a family.”

Asked how he was feeling, Mr Hunter said: “I can’t describe it. I’m sorry. I wish I could, I wish I could find words to describe it but I can’t.

“When you’re under pressure for two years, not knowing which way it’s going to go.”

In an interview with the Mail, Hunter spoke of how he and his daughter, Lesley Cawthorne, both cried in an emotional video call made after he was released.

“I feel numb, it doesn’t feel real,” he told the Mail.

“When I spoke to Lesley the first thing I said was, ‘I love you’.”

He added: “We were both crying. She couldn’t talk. She started crying and she couldn’t say a word.”

The pensioner also said a police officer embraced him and told him he would be released following his sentence, the Mail reported.

“The policeman hugged me and said, ‘Congratulations David, you’re free, you got the result you deserve.’ I just shook his hand and said: ‘Thanks, mate’.”

Following his release, Hunter’s daughter Lesley Cawthorne said: “I’m elated and relieved that my darling dad has been released. The past 19 months have been a living nightmare for our family but today is the start of us being able to rebuild our lives.

“Dad’s release also means we can finally grieve for my mum and I hope everyone can respect our privacy whilst we take the time to come to terms with her loss.

“So many people have worked hard and supported our efforts to bring my dad home, too many to mention but you know who you are and you know you have our deepest gratitude.

“The kindness and love of friends and strangers has been the thing that has kept us going and we can never thank you all enough.”

David and Janice Hunter on their wedding day. Credit: PA

After speaking to Hunter over the phone in a tearful call, Ms Cawthorne added: “Speaking to my daddy was the most amazing thing. I feel like my heart has been put back together.”

Michael Polak, of Justice Abroad, which has been representing David Hunter, said: “We are very pleased with the sentence today which means that David will be free immediately.

“The sentencing exercise was not a simple one given that a case like this has never come before the courts of Cyprus before.

“We submitted extensive sentencing case law from across the common law world, from Australia to Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to assist the court in coming to a decision which was fair.

“The result of today’s hearing, and the court’s previous decision finding Mr Hunter not guilty of murder, is what we have been fighting for in this case, and David is very pleased with the outcome today.

“This has been a tragic case and difficult for all of those involved with it, but today’s decision was the right one and allows David and his family to grieve together.”

David Hunter, pictured after being found guilty of manslaughter earlier in July. Credit: PA

Giving evidence in May, the 76-year-old told the District Court in Paphos that he would "never in a million years" have taken his wife's life unless she had asked him.

The couple had been together for more than 50 years and moved to Cyprus to retire.

They had been living on the island for about 20 years when the tragic events of 18 December 2021 took place.

Mr Hunter, who had described his wife as his "best friend", told reporters he was "elated and happy" as he left court after being cleared of pre-meditated murder.

During the trial, Hunter showed the court how he held his hands over his wife’s mouth and nose and said he eventually decided to grant his wife’s wish after she became “hysterical”.

He said: “For five or six weeks before she died she was asking me to help her. 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.”

Before he finished giving evidence, he asked to address the judge, who he told: “My wife was suffering and she actually said: ‘I don’t want to live any more,’ and I still said no.

“Then she started to become hysterical. I was hoping she would change her mind. I loved her so much. I did not plan it, I swear to God.”

After giving evidence he told reporters his time in a Cypriot prison was “nothing” compared to the last six months of Janice’s life.

Hunter told the court he tried to kill himself after his wife’s death.

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