A "loving and doting" son, who strangled his chronically-ill mother to ensure her death after she had taken a drug overdose, was jailed for a year yesterday.
A judge told Paul Weber - a "distraught, exhausted but loving carer" who had looked after his mother for almost two decades - that he was being sent to prison partially to help him overcome his own suicidal tendencies.
The story of Weber, 48, and his 75-year-old mother Marie Winter, who never got over the death in 1987 of her second husband, unfolded at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday after Weber admitted a charge of aiding and abetting his mother's suicide.
It was on Boxing Day last year that Weber heard a noise and went to his mother's bedroom at their home in Wickford, Essex. The pair had tried to take their lives earlier in the year when they feared Weber had cancer. Mrs Winter had heart problems and a muscle-wasting condition that left her confined to bed for months at a time.
When Weber got to his mother's bedroom, he found she had swallowed a "dangerous" amount of sleeping pills. He sat with her for six hours, waiting for her to die. But when he feared her suicide attempt might fail, he removed the cord from his dressing gown and strangled her. "She was determined and the defendant knew this," said Stephen Harvey, prosecuting.
"He placed the cord around her neck and then laid over her. She did not struggle."
Then Weber arranged his mother's body, with her arms folded across her chest, before placing a treasured angel brooch in her hand.
He then left her, took a steak knife and slashed his throat six times. He swallowed 50 painkillers, washing them down with wine. But he woke up vomiting the following morning and called the emergency services.
Weber wept in the dock as the story was outlined.
Describing the case as "very sad", Judge Christopher Ball, QC, said that a prison sentence was not only necessary to reflect the gravity of what Weber had done but also "to help your reform and coming to terms with what has happened".
In a statement afterwards, members of the family said: "We do not blame Paul for his actions. In fact, without his care, our mother would probably have passed away many years ago.
"Family, friends and everyone involved or affected by the tragedy knew Paul as a good and kind son who had cared for his mother for many years."