A man who slit his wife’s throat “in an act of love” and tried to kill himself has been found not guilty of murder after a judge accepted the couple had made a suicide pact.
Graham Mansfield, 73, from Hale in Greater Manchester, was given a suspended sentence of two years after being found guilty of manslaughter at Manchester crown court.
A jury took just 90 minutes to clear him of the more serious charge after he gave emotional testimony of how he had killed his wife, Dyanne, because she was in such pain with terminal cancer.
He said he killed her after she asked him to take her life “when things get bad for me”. The retired baggage handler and union rep said they were “the saddest words I had ever heard”, but agreed on the condition that he ended his own life too.
Outside court, Mansfield took the highly unusual step of thanking the Greater Manchester police officers who arrested him and ultimately charged him with murder. “They have been so lovely and kind,” he said. “They are nice people and they treat me like a human being.”
He called for a change in the law on assisted dying: “I’d just like to say, the law needs to change. Nobody should have to go through what we went through. Unfortunately, today, my wife is not here. She shouldn’t have had to die in such barbaric circumstances. That was what we had to resort to.”
He said Dyanne would be “fuming” to see him with a criminal record for carrying out her wish to die.
His solicitor, Rachel Fletcher, said: We’re very happy that the jury acquitted Mr Mansfield of murder but under the current system of law as the jury were told, he had no defense to manslaughter. This is a shocking state of affairs in what is supposed to be a civilized country and the sooner the law changes, the better.”
The pair had been married for 40 years and Mansfield had told the court he could not bear the thought of life without his wife. “Ella She was the most precious person in the world to me,” he said. “I wanted to be with her for ever.”
A medical report written after Dyanne’s postmortem found she probably had between one and four weeks to live when she died. She had bladder cancer that spread to her lungs and lymph nodes and had recently stopped chemotherapy.
The couple had no children but Dyanne’s brother, Peter Higson, gave a statement to the court saying he held no malice towards his brother-in-law and would continue to value his friendship. He asked the judge to spare Mansfield from jail, adding:” “I believe Graham has suffered more than enough and will never get over this order.”
Giving evidence, Mansfield said Dyanne did not make a sound as he cut her throat in their garden at 9pm on 23 March, copying a method he had seen in a war film. He then tried to follow suit but woke up an hour later. An overdose attempt also failed and the next morning he rang 999 and confessed to what he had done.
Police and paramedics attending the scene told the court he begged to be left to die, crying: “I couldn’t even do this properly.” He received treatment for wounds to his wrists and neck but made a good recovery.
Several notes were found at the scene. One said: “We have decided to take our own lives,” giving instructions on where to find his house keys and how to contact his sister from him, the court heard.
Another note, written by Mansfield and addressed to his family, was found in an envelope in the house. It read: “We are sorry to burden you with this but there is no other way. We made a pact that when it got too bad for Dyanne we would end it.
“I couldn’t bear to live without Dyanne and as the months progressed and as things got worse, it only reinforced our decision that the time has arrived. We hope you all understand.
“Don’t get too upset. We have had a wonderful and happy life together.”
Neither note was signed by Dyanne, the court heard.
Mr Justice Goose, sentencing Mansfield, said: “Your evidence, which I accept, is that every sinew in your body didn’t want to kill your wife. It was what she had asked you to do. It was an act of love and compassion to end her suffering from her.
The circumstances of this case are “exceptional”, he said, explaining why he decided against an immediate custodial sentence.
Mansfield was described as a “positive person” by a psychiatrist who examined him a few days after the killing. She noted that the last year had been “very difficult” for him but that he was adamant he would not attempt suicide again, stating: “Dyanne wouldn’t want me to do that.”
Mansfield, who had been on bail, denied murder. He also pleaded not guilty to an alternative account of manslaughter on the grounds that his actions were “undertaken through duration of circumstances.”