A 100-year-old man was spared prison today after slitting his wife’s throat in what the judge said appeared to be an “act of love”.
Bernard Heginbotham, of Preesall, near Blackpool, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife Ida, 87, with whom he had enjoyed 67 years of “joyous” marriage.
Retired butcher Heginbotham sobbed in the dock of Preston Crown Court as Mr Justice Leveson spoke of the devoted husband who had cared for his sick wife in the final years of her life.
Mrs Heginbotham was found by care home staff with a single knife wound to the throat after a visit from her husband on April 1 this year.
Prosecutor Hilary Banks said the couple had had 67 years of happy marriage together and raised six children but Ida had become dependent on her husband after she had been hurt in several falls.
Her condition deteriorated and she needed specialist care and was moved between numerous care homes. Throughout this time Heginbotham had visited her daily.
The court heard he had become very distressed and tearful after a telephone call from his son Neville in which he learned his wife was to be moved to a respite home some distance away.
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.
“It was, as you will well know, a terrible thing to do but I accept entirely the circumstances in which you did it and your feelings of guilt and remorse have been truly overwhelming.”
Mr Justice Leveson fell short of demanding an inquiry into the circumstances that led to Mrs Heginbotham being moved between the care homes but said that he was “concerned” by what he had heard of her treatment.