British man to be sentenced in Cyprus for manslaughter of terminally ill wife

David Hunter has been in custody for 19 months (Joe Giddens/PA)
David Hunter has been in custody for 19 months (Joe Giddens/PA)

A retired British miner may be able to leave prison this week as Cypriot judges prepare to sentence him for the manslaughter of his terminally ill wife.

David Hunter, 76, will be sentenced in a hearing expected to last at least two days from Thursday after being cleared of the more serious charge of premeditated murder.

His legal team will be arguing he should be given a suspended sentence and that there is “no point in keeping him in prison any longer”.

The pensioner, from Ashington, Northumberland, had been on trial for killing his spouse of 52 years, Janice, who died of asphyxiation at their home near the coastal resort town of Paphos in December 2021.

David Hunter court case – Cyprus
David Hunter has spent 19 months in custody and his daughter is hoping he will be released within the next few weeks (Joe Giddens/PA)

Hunter, who has been in custody for 19 months, told the court she “cried and begged” him to end her life as she suffered from blood cancer.

The couple’s daughter Lesley Cawthorne said the family was “apprehensive” ahead of the sentencing hearing.

She told the PA news agency: “We are hoping for time served or a suspended sentence but are very aware that there’s a chance he’ll remain in custody. We’re not counting our chickens.”

Ms Cawthorne said her father had been “quietly relieved” since last week’s verdict, but was “not especially” hopeful about his sentence.

She added: “He doesn’t want to allow himself to get his hopes up.

“He’s grateful that the judges seem to have understood what they went through and believe that he acted out of love.”

Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, which is representing Hunter, told PA: “In this case we are putting forward case law from across common law jurisdictions such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom, given that no cases such as this have ever been dealt with in Cyprus.

“In these jurisdictions, the courts have found that suspended sentences are appropriate where the facts are similar to those in David’s case.

“Last week the court found in David’s favour on all matters including that Janice had requested that he help her die, that he had acted because of his love for her, and that he then tried to end his own life.

Janice Hunter's gravestone
David Hunter described his wife Janice, who is buried in Cyprus, as his ‘best friend’ (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We will be submitting to the court that a suspended sentence is appropriate in this case, given the type of offence, David’s age, the fact that he has spent 19 months in custody, and his previous good character.

“There is no point in keeping David in prison any longer.”

In May, Hunter broke down in tears as he told his trial, which lasted more than a year, that he would “never in a million years” have taken his wife’s life unless she had asked him to.

He added: “She wasn’t just my wife, she was my best friend.”

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”.