A pensioner who devotedly cared for his sick wife suffocated her as she slept and then tried to take his life because he could no longer cope, a court heard yesterday.
Frank Peters, 80, was worried that his wife Monica, 72, would not be able to look after herself if he died before her.
After smothering her with a pillow he then tried to kill himself by taking an overdose of morphine tablets at their home in St Leonards, East Sussex. When that failed he tried to slit his wrist and throat with a Stanley knife. Finally he dialled 999 to confess what he had done.
advertisementPeters, a retired hotel porter, denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Lewes Crown Court, East Sussex.
Members of his family in the public gallery applauded when Judge Richard Brown, suspended a nine-month prison sentence for two years, saying that "no right-minded" person would want to see Peters behind bars.
The judge said: "I bear in mind the loving relationship you clearly had with your wife of 50 odd years and I accept it was your distorted perception of what was good for both of you that caused you to take her life."
Simon Russell-Flint, QC, prosecuting, said there was no doubt that his severely-arthritic wife "was in a good deal of pain but she was not depressed and had no suicidal tendencies.
"The decision that she should die was not one she had made but one the defendant had arrived at without the decision of Mrs Peters."
Mr Russell-Flint said that Peters killed his wife some time between Dec 31 last year, and Jan 5 this year.
Mrs Peters had suffered pain from arthritis, a spine infection and a hip replacement and her GP had recently increased her morphine dose from 60 to 90 milligrams.
In a joint statement, the couple's children said: "Our love and support will always be with our father."