Husband who survived suicide pact spared jail

Simon Bristow

A RETIRED police officer from Yorkshire has been spared prison despite helping his mentally ill wife of 51 years end her life.

James Daniel, 71, was given a 12-month community supervision order after a judge deemed it a “dreadfully sad case”, demanding that the vulnerable pensioner be helped to come to terms with the tragedy.

Stephen Welch, prosecuting, told Hull Crown Court that the couple decided to end their lives in a suicide pact.

Mr Welch said that wife Alice, 68, suffered from a long history of mental illness, including depression. In March her medication was changed and her health deteriorated so much that she was admitted to hospital.

The court heard yesterday how the retired police officer – who had an exemplary service record with West Yorkshire Police spanning 35 years – had been married to his wife for more than half a century.

Mr Welch said the couple, who had five children, had lived at Bridlington for three years before Mrs Daniel’s health became so bad that the besotted couple thought they could no longer go on.

He said: “After spending several periods in and out of hospital in her home town, Alice was discharged but became depressed and told her son, Peter, that she wanted to end it.

“James also spoke to his son and said that he was struggling to cope.”

On May 19 Daniel again confided in his son that his wife was not so good and the court heard she retired to bed at 6.30pm with her husband following an hour later.

At about 9.15am the next day Peter Daniel heard a bang coming from his mother’s bedroom. He entered to find her lying on the bed and his father on the floor next to it.

Both showed signs of bleeding due to the overdoses they had taken.

A quantity of anti-depressants was recovered from the room and Mrs Daniel died later in hospital.

Daniel gave a complete account to a psychiatrist, telling her that it was a “joint decision” to take the tablets.

Mr Welch said: “He also told the psychiatrist that his wife looked really happy as she laid down to die.”

It was also revealed that two of his sons had given statements proclaiming their parents’ marriage to be a “long, loving relationship”.

Mark Berry, for Daniel, told Judge Tom Cracknell: “He has no intention of again attempting suicide. He has seen what he has put his children through and has no intention of repeating that.”

Judge Cracknell told Daniel: “I can’t imagine the strain you must have been under. It was clearly unbearable. It led you to behave in a way which was wholly out of character.”