Three years for wife strangler in foiled suicide bid

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A PENSIONER who killed his wife of 53 years before attempting suicide because he could not bear to leave her on her own has been jailed for three years.

Former soldier Clement Callaghan, 80, strangled his wife Eileen, 76, with a dog lead after hitting her over the head with a hammer at their home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, during a bout of severe depression, Bradford Crown Court heard.

The Royal British Legion stalwart, who served in the Royal Artillery at the time of the Korean War but did not see active service, later drove to a layby in Colne, Lancashire, where he took an overdose and cut his neck and groin.

But his suicide attempt was thwarted when he was found by passers-by and he was taken to hospital where doctors managed to save him.

Handwritten notes were found in his car confessing to what he had done. In one he had written: “I couldn’t leave Eileen alone in this world to face what I have done.”

In another, he explained his fears that his wife, who had difficulty walking, would struggle to cope with everyday tasks such as getting to medical and veterinary appointments and walking their dogs without him.

Another read: “Please don’t judge me so harshly. If I should have made a mess of this please don’t try to bring me round to carry on living in hell.”

Another note instructed officers to go to the couple’s home in Ivy Bank Lane, where they found Mrs Callaghan’s body.

A “substantial” amount of cash in an envelope addressed to the childless couple’s niece and nephew was also discovered.

When quizzed about this, Callaghan said: “You see, there were to be two funerals to pay for.”

The court heard the couple were married in 1959 after a number of years of courting. They had a happy marriage and had lived a “gentle and modest” life together.

The court was told how Callaghan had said: “We were one unit and had been all our lives.”

Callaghan spent 11 days in hospital after his suicide attempt, where he said to a nurse: “Why did they have to find me? I want to die.”

The court heard he had had developed a severe depressive illness and had visited his GP three times in the month leading up to the tragedy in August last year.

He was prescribed antidepressants but refused to take them because he feared they would make him drowsy, leaving him unable to drive and help his wife.

On a packet of tablets found after his suicide attempt, he had written “not the doctor’s fault”. His GP also suggested counselling but he turned it down “because everyone would know he wouldn’t be able to cope”, prosecutor Sophie Drake said.

The court heard that Callaghan had begun to worry about otherwise trivial problems and was struggling to sleep when he started to stockpile paracetamol tablets in his wardrobe as he planned his suicide.

Callaghan admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility at a hearing last October. A murder charge was dropped by the prosecution in January.

Peter Moulson QC, mitigating, said: “Her life was taken as he thought she couldn’t live without her. As the frenzy of age caught up with her he saw their mutual end as the only way forward.”

Callaghan, who is very hard of hearing, was allowed to leave the dock and sit next to his barrister as he was sentenced.

As Judge Roger Thomas told him he had led an “entirely blameless” life until now, he replied: “I have never had a parking ticket.”

Acknowledging he had acted “astonishingly out of character”, Judge Thomas said: “On the one hand, I look at you, a good man, an elderly man who provokes obvious sympathy.

“On the other hand, I can’t ignore the fact that you deliberately, with responsibility diminished, killed somebody – your wife.”

Callaghan has been held in HMP Leeds in Armley since he was discharged from hospital. He was said to have remarked that “life in the Army prepared him for life at Armley”.