100-year-old man spared prison after killing wife in ‘act of love’

A 100-YEAR-OLD man was spared prison today despite admitting he cut the throat of his 87-year-old sick wife in what the judge said appeared to be “an act of love”.

Bernard Heginbotham wept as the court was told how the couple’s 67 years of “joyous” marriage had come to such a tragic end.

Retired butcher Heginbotham pleaded guilty with diminished responsibility to the manslaughter of his wife, Ida, at the Kepplegate residential home near Blackpool, Lancashire in north-west England, on April 1.

Ida had suffered several falls and undergone two hip operations, becoming totally dependent upon her husband, Preston Crown Court was told.

Heginbotham, of Preesall, near Blackpool, Lancashire, had cared for her at home but as her condition worsened she was moved into several care homes for more specialist treatment.

Prosecutor Hilary Banks described how, during this time, Heginbotham had visited his wife daily and sometimes for up to eight hours at a time.

The court heard that on the day of the killing he had become very distressed and tearful after a telephone call from his son in which he learnt his wife was to be moved to a respite home some distance away.

The court heard he was let into his wife’s room by care staff who returned some time later to find Ida dead from a single knife wound to the throat.

The weapon, which was believed to be a kitchen knife, was never recovered. Ms Banks said: “He admitted that he went to the home with a weapon and injured his wife which resulted in her death.

“He didn’t want his wife to be moved again and didn’t think she was going to receive the care he wanted her to have.”

Police arrested Heginbotham that day at his home, where he was found to have attempted suicide.

When arrested by officers on the charge of suspicion of murder, he said: “My poor Ida”. He later told interviewing officers he thought he must have “gone berserk”.

Passing a 12-month community rehabilitation order on Heginbotham, Mr Justice Leveson said: “Bernard Heginbotham, the killing of your wife, to whom you had been married joyously for some 67 years, followed by your attempt to take your own life, was an act of desperation carried out in an effort to end her suffering while you were under intolerable pressure.

“It was, in truth, an act of love and I have no doubt you suffered a medical disorder at the time and the responsibility which you bear is substantially reduced.

Family solicitor Alan Godwin gave a short statement after the hearing.

“The family are relieved on behalf of Bernard Heginbotham that the matter is now concluded. Their hope now is that their father will be allowed to spend what time remains to him privately and peacefully in the company of his family.”

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