Pensioner David Hunter, who was given a two-year jail sentence for killing his terminally ill wife in Cyprus, is facing fresh anguish after the country’s attorney general launched an appeal.
Former miner Mr Hunter, 76, was held in jail for more than 18 months after being arrested and charged with murdering his wife Janice, 74, who was suffering from blood cancer at their home on the Mediterranean island.
After fatally smothering her, he then took an overdose but was found by paramedics and police after his family in the UK alerted local authorities. He was taken to hospital and made a full recovery.
Last month he was found not guilty of murder but convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in jail. But because of time spent on remand, he was immediately freed. One of the first things he did was to go and pay his respects to Janice at her graveside.
But now it has emerged that the Cyprus attorney general has filed an appeal at the Paphos court where Mr Hunter was tried, on the grounds of the sentence and the verdict – leaving the pensioner facing a fresh legal battle.
David Hunter, 76, from Northumberland, sits down with the Daily Mail on August 2, 2023 for an exclusive interview after he was released from prison in Cyprus
He visits the grave of his late wife Janice to lay flowers for the first time since he was released from prison, on August 1, 2023
Judicial sources in Cyprus told MailOnline that the appeal was based on the sentence being ‘insufficient’ and that he should have been convicted of premediated murder.
At his trial the court agreed with the defence position that David had acted spontaneously to end the life of his wife of over 50 years after she begged him to do so because of the pain she was suffering, and that his action was motivated by love.
Michael Polak of Justice Abroad, who has been helping Mr Hunter, from Ashington, Northumberland, expressed his disappointment at the decision.
He said: ‘We are obviously very disappointed with the attorney general’s decision to appeal today, which gets in the way of David getting on with his life.
‘He has spent 19 months in prison and faced legal proceedings over that period that would be difficult for anyone, but especially for someone of his age.
‘This is a very sad matter; however it is difficult to see how the continued pursuit of David assists anyone.
‘We will continue to fight for David before the Appeal Court of Cyprus as we have done throughout the lengthy mission to free David.
‘David would like to thank everyone from Cyprus, the United Kingdom, and around the world who has shown such strong support during his trial and since his release.’
Mr Hunter has remained living in Paphos and his daughter, Lesley, told MailOnline the family are ‘devastated’ by the new developments.
Retired miner David Hunter is pictured with his wife, Janice Hunter
David Hunter leaving Paphos District Court in Cyprus after he was released from custody
The 76-year-old was released from custody in Cyprus last week. He was allowed to walk free within 15 minutes of being sentenced at Paphos District Court due to time already served and good behaviour.
Mr Hunter spent nearly 19 months in prison before being cleared of premeditated murder by a three-judge panel, but found guilty of manslaughter.
On Monday, he and his daughter Lesley Cawthorne both spoke to ITV’s Good Morning Britain about their experiences.
Ms Cawthorne said she understood why her father had acted to end her pain.
She said: ‘I know how much they loved each other, I know how devoted they were to one other and I can completely imagine and understand my dad doing anything my mum asked of him because that’s how much he loved her, that’s how much he loves her still.’
Ms Cawthorne added: ‘I didn’t know anything because my parents have always been really, really protective and they didn’t want to worry me. And they have always been really good at protecting me. They are amazing parents and they did it well, they hid it from me completely so I didn’t have a clue.
‘They were together a long time. I’m the only person who knows them this well. I’m the only person who has lived in a house with them and have seen them together, seen the kind of relationship they have’.
She was also asked whether, if she had been in a position where her mother had asked her to take her life, would she have done it.
And Ms Cawthorne said: ‘I don’t know what I would have done in that position. I think I would have found it incredibly difficult to have seen my mum in that much pain and that desperate to have a peaceful end.
‘And have her dignity back because things like the chronic diarrhoea, the nosebleeds, everything robbed her of her dignity. She was a very proud woman. I think I would have found it very difficult to have not helped had she asked.’
David pictured with Janice on their wedding day in 1969 after courting for about three years
The Hunters, pictured with their daughter Lesley, sold their home in Ashington in 2001 to live permanently in Paphos
Asked whether there should be a law change over euthanasia, she continued: ‘I think it’s something we need to continue having a really adult conversation about in the country. I think there has to be a better way. I think we can’t keep outsourcing compassion.
‘So many people have asked me why didn’t they go to Dignitas, why didn’t they go to Switzerland? There are many reasons why lots and lots of families can’t do that.
‘To travel to Dignitas will cost roughly between £9,000 and £14,000, and that’s putting a financial burden on people who are often not in a good position to do that because they’ve lost their income due to illness, they’ve lost their savings due to illness.
‘And then, the thing is, so many people are just too unwell, as would have been the case with my mum, many people are too unwell to do that – or they have to make the decision to travel when they’re well enough, so they go earlier than they would have chosen.’
Mr Hunter was also interviewed on Good Morning Britain, speaking from Paphos.
He said Janice had started asking him to help her die for about six weeks but he had repeatedly told her: ‘I couldn’t take my wife’s life’.
He said: ‘I kept saying no. I said: “Keep fighting. I don’t want to hurt you” and she replied: “You can’t hurt me any more than the pain I have now”.’
The couple were married for more than 50 years and Mr Hunter described the heartbreaking moment he finally agreed to assist her death. He suffocated her in December 2021 and then tried to kill himself with a drugs overdose.
He said: ‘She kept asking me. I kept refusing. In the last two weeks she was pressuring me, begging me and at one point became quite hysterical. And I said: “OK. I’ll help you. But I won’t tell you when and I won’t tell you how”. But I didn’t want to do it. I hoped that it would pacify her and she would change her mind. But she didn’t.’
Mr Hunter then ended his wife’s life in December 2021.
He was sentenced to two years but judges ruled that, after 19 months in prison, he had served enough time
Mr Hunter admitted he was still shocked to be free having expected to spend another five years in prison.
He wept on the steps of Pathos District Court in Cyprus after he was released from jail.
Judges ruled that after 19 months in Nicosia prison, he had served enough time. And he immediately went to visit his wife’s grave for the first time.
Janice’s grave is around 7km north of Paphos. The cemetery lies in the village of Tremithousa, where he and his late wife lived.
The Northumberland-born retired miner said he finally felt his wife could ‘rest in peace’.
Mr and Mrs Hunter met 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 Cyprus 30 years later, before retiring to the island.
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.
Mr Hunter told the court in Paphos how his wife had ‘cried and begged’ him to end her life and ‘liberate’ her as she endured agonising pain from blood cancer.
Delivering his sentence, 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.’
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