A retired British miner who killed his terminally ill wife told how he was reduced to tears yesterday as he was finally granted his freedom.

David Hunter, 76, walked free from a court in Cyprus after his sentence for manslaughter was deemed to have been already served.

Within minutes of hearing the court’s decision, Mr Hunter made a video call to his daughter Lesley Cawthorne.

‘It takes a lot to make me cry, but I did when I spoke to Lesley,’ he told the Mail.

‘I feel numb, it doesn’t feel real. 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.’

David Hunter (pictured), 76, walked free from a court in Cyprus after his sentence for manslaughter was deemed to have been already served

David Hunter (pictured), 76, walked free from a court in Cyprus after his sentence for manslaughter was deemed to have been already served

Hunter smothered Janice in 2021 at their retirement home in Cyprus. Last week, he told the Paphos criminal trial how he took the heart-breaking decision to end her suffering from devastating blood cancer

Hunter smothered Janice in 2021 at their retirement home in Cyprus. Last week, he told the Paphos criminal trial how he took the heart-breaking decision to end her suffering from devastating blood cancer

Mr Hunter, 76, was originally charged with murdering his childhood sweetheart Janice, 74, at their home near the coastal resort town of Paphos in 2021. 

He told the court in Paphos how his wife of 52 years had ‘cried and begged’ for him to end her life and ‘liberate’ her as she endured agonising pain from blood cancer.

He suffocated her and then tried to kill himself with a drugs overdose.

Last month judges dismissed the murder charge and convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Yesterday the father of one was handed a two-year jail sentence which he was deemed to have already served after spending 19 month in Nicosia prison.

During a trial which lasted more than a year, Northumberland-born Mr Hunter told of how he met his wife at a miners’ hall party. 

The couple went on to marry at St John’s Church in Ashington in 1969 and bought a property in Cyrpus 30 years later, before moving to the island to retire there.

But in 2016 Mrs Hunter was diagnosed with blood cancer and by late 2021 she was reduced to wearing nappies, covered in skin lesions and could no longer stand. 

The couple went on to marry at St John's Church in Ashington in 1969 (pictured here) and bought a property in Cyrpus 30 years later, before moving to the island to retire there

The couple went on to marry at St John’s Church in Ashington in 1969 (pictured here) and bought a property in Cyrpus 30 years later, before moving to the island to retire there

Mr Hunter, 76, was originally charged with murdering his childhood sweetheart Janice, 74, at their home near the coastal resort town of Paphos in 2021. He told the court in Paphos how his wife of 52 years had 'cried and begged' for him to end her life and 'liberate' her as she endured agonising pain from blood cancer (pictured: the former home of David Hunter in Paphos)

Mr Hunter, 76, was originally charged with murdering his childhood sweetheart Janice, 74, at their home near the coastal resort town of Paphos in 2021. He told the court in Paphos how his wife of 52 years had ‘cried and begged’ for him to end her life and ‘liberate’ her as she endured agonising pain from blood cancer (pictured: the former home of David Hunter in Paphos)

Giving evidence earlier this year, Hunter told of how his wife begged him to help her end her life, a demand he refused for six weeks.

But he eventually smothered her one Monday morning in December 2021 – after she began to cry out in pain once again.

Hunter then kissed his wife on the forehead before ringing his brother to confess what he had done. Police on the island were alerted, but Hunter told the court he could not remember being arrested or interviewed.

Delivering a two-year sentence yesterday, Judge Michalis Droussiotis said: ‘Before us is a unique case of taking human life on the basis of feelings of love, with the aim of relieving a person of their suffering that came due to their illness.’ 

The judge also said Hunter’s clean criminal record, age and personal circumstances had been considered – alongside previous similar cases.

But, because ten months in custody is the equivalent of a year for a short sentence under the Cypriot justice system, Mr Hunter was found to have already served his time by spending 19 months behind bars.

Mr Hunter said it was a police officer who told him he would be released.

He said: ‘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’.’

Within minutes of receiving the news, Hunter made a video call to his daughter. After the verdict Ms Cawthorne said: ‘Speaking to my Daddy was the most amazing thing. I feel like my heart has been put back together.’ 

She added: ‘I thought I’d lost him forever. I cannot believe it. It’s amazing.’

Outside the court, a tearful Mr Hunter said there were ‘no words’ to describe how it felt to be free after spending 19 months in custody.

He also thanked those who had raised funds for his legal costs, adding: ‘I would like to say thank you to all the people who donated to me and especially my work mates. I don’t know where I would be without them.’

Michael Polak (left), of Justice Abroad which represented Hunter said: 'We're very, very pleased with the outcome today. This is what we've been fighting for over 12 months'

Michael Polak (left), of Justice Abroad which represented Hunter said: ‘We’re very, very pleased with the outcome today. This is what we’ve been fighting for over 12 months’ 

David Hunter, 76, was overcome with emotion and said he 'didn't know where I would be' without his friends and former colleagues as he walked towards his freedom for the first time in nearly two years

David Hunter, 76, was overcome with emotion and said he ‘didn’t know where I would be’ without his friends and former colleagues as he walked towards his freedom for the first time in nearly two years 

An apparent suicide note written by Mr Hunter was apparently crucial in his acquittal for pre-meditated murder.

A blue notebook and pen were found in his house with a message in it seemingly left for those who would find Mr Hunter and his wife’s bodies.

Michael Polak, of Justice Abroad which represented Hunter said: ‘We’re very, very pleased with the outcome today. This is what we’ve been fighting for over 12 months.’

He added: ‘It is a pity he spent so long in prison but he’s really looking forward to getting out and now this allows for him and his family to properly grieve.’

The case is the latest to trigger debate around assisted suicide which is illegal in the UK, but permitted in other parts of the world.

A spokesman for campaign group Dignity in Dying said: ‘Our thoughts are with all of Janice’s family. We hope they can now fully grieve her death and process the traumatic events of the last few years.

‘Without the option of safe and compassionate assisted dying laws, there will undoubtedly be more tragic cases of dying people resorting to taking matters into their own hands, with and without the assistance of loved ones.’

DailyMail

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