EXCLUSIVE: Emotional British husband David Hunter visits his wife’s grave for the first time and sobs ‘she can rest in peace now’ – hours after being freed from Cypriot prison for smothering her to death in mercy-killing
- David Hunter, 76, visited his wife Janice’s grave in Cyprus after being freed
- He was released from prison yesterday after serving 19 months in jail during trial
The British pensioner who was freed after spending over a year in custody for killing his terminally-ill wife was finally able to pay his respects today.
David Hunter, 76, wept on the steps of Pathos District Court in Cyprus yesterday after he was convicted of the manslaughter of his childhood sweetheart Janice, 74 – but released from jail.
Judges ruled that after 19 months in Nicosia prison, he had served enough. And this morning he was finally able to visit his wife’s grave for the first time.
Around 7km north of Paphos, the cemetery lies in the village of Tremithousa, where he and his late wife lived.
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail, the Northumberland-born retired miner said he finally felt his wife could ‘rest in peace’.
David Hunter, 76, visited his wife Janice’s grave for the first time on Tuesday
Mr Hunter, who was tearful throughout the visit, said: ‘I’ve wanted to visit the grave for a while, but of course I felt apprehensive – I knew I would be.’
Mr Hunter visited the plot shortly after 9am to lay flowers and kneel at the grave for a moment of reflection
Mr Hunter was visibly emotional as he looked at his wife’s grave, who was his childhood sweetheart
Hunter smothered Janice in 2021 at their retirement home in Cyprus. Last week, he told the Paphos criminal trial how he took the heart-breaking decision to end her suffering from devastating blood cancer
Mr Hunter, who was tearful throughout the visit, said: ‘I’ve wanted to visit the grave for a while, but of course I felt apprehensive – I knew I would be.
‘But then when you see the grave, you really know that she’s there – and that hurts.’
He added: ‘I felt very emotional today, but I did feel a sense of relief.
‘I know it’s going to be hard, but I feel that she can rest in peace now all of this is over.’
Tremithousa is nestled at an altitude of 280 metres, offering panoramic views of Western Cyprus.
Walnut trees, almonds and citrus fruits are all grown in the small village, which has around 1,300 inhabitants in total.
Mr Hunter visited the plot shortly after 9am to lay flowers and kneel at the grave for a moment of reflection.
And after spending 19 months in Nicosia prison, Mr Hunter was finally able to visit her grave for the first time this morning.
Mr Hunter took an array of brightly-coloured flowers with him to lay on his wife’s grave
Mr Hunter, who has spent more than a year in custody, reached his wife’s grave for the first time on Tuesday
Mr Hunter was overcome with emotion as he knelt in front of his wife’s grave
Mr Hunter, who was tearful throughout the visit, said: ‘I’ve wanted to visit the grave for a while, but of course I felt apprehensive – I knew I would be. ‘But then when you see the grave, you really know that she’s there – and that hurts.’
‘She chose this cemetery years ago, once she knew she was very ill and she was not going to get better,’ said Mr Hunter.
He added: ‘She wanted to integrate fully with the village this was her way of doing it I suppose.
‘This is my home now. My grave is here.’
Mr and Mrs Hunter were married for 52 years after first meeting 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 moving to the island to retire there.
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.
And after refusing her pleas for six weeks he suffocated her in December 2021 and then tried to kill himself with a drugs overdose.
Mr Hunter is pictured laying flowers on his wife’s grave after he was released from prison yesterday
David Hunter, 76, was overcome with emotion and said he ‘didn’t know where I would be’ without his friends and former colleagues after he was released from custody in Paphos, Cyprus, on Tuesday
Hunter waves and smiles as he walks towards his freedom after he was released from prison in Cyprus on Monday
Mr Hunter’s daughter, Lesley Cawthorne, 50, says it ‘breaks her heart’ that her father has been left ‘destitute’ from trial
He was put on trial for murder but last month judges dismissed this charge and convicted him of manslaughter.
He was sentenced to two years yesterday and was freed after Cyprus authorities deemed he had already served his time in Nicosia prison.
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.’
Speaking on the steps of Paphos District Court yesterday after being released, a visibly emotional Mr Hunter said: ‘I’d like to say thank you to all the people who’ve donated to me, and especially my mates and my workmates. I don’t know where I would be without them.’
The former miner added: ‘When you work in a colliery, you’re a family.’
Asked how he was feeling, Hunter said: ‘I can’t describe it. I’m sorry. I wish I could, I wish I could find words to describe it but I can’t.
‘When you’re under pressure for two years, not knowing which way it’s going to go.’
Mr Hunter’s daughter Lesley Cawthorne was the first person he called when he found out he was free to tell her he loved her.
Speaking through tears, Lesley, who had been waiting in anguish for the result of the sentencing from her home in Norwich, said: ‘Speaking to my Daddy was the most amazing thing. I feel like my heart has been put together. I thought I’d lost him forever. I can’t believe it. It’s amazing.’
Overcome with emotion, Lesley, who is unable to travel from the UK because of a health condition, added that as soon as she sees him again she was ‘going to hug him and never ever let him go’.
During his highly emotive trial, Mr Hunter told the court that Janice ‘cried and begged’ him to end her life as she suffered from blood cancer.
He broke down in tears as he said he would ‘never in a million years’ have taken Mrs Hunter’s life unless she had asked him to.
He showed the court how he held his hands over his wife’s mouth and nose and said he eventually decided to grant her wish after she became ‘hysterical’.
The retired Northumberland miner was forced to treat Janice for terminal blood cancer at home with injections due to Covid restrictions as she deteriorated in front of his eyes.
In her last days she was crying out in agony 24 hours a day, unable to move from their sofa or take painkillers as she pleaded with him to kill her.
He finally relented and took her life on December 18, 2021. Hunter went on to attempt suicide, taking drugs and alcohol with the aim of overdosing.
But medics managed to revive him before he was arrested on suspicion of pre-meditated murder – and he has since languished in a high-security jail in Nicosia. He has now been acquitted of murder but found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
He said: ‘I don’t remember a lot of the last day. I went to make a cup of coffee and she started crying.’
He described how he went to the kettle and gripped the bench for support as his wife sat sobbing next door.
‘The next thing I knew I put my hands on her,’ he said, wiping tears from his eyes. ‘When it was finished, she was a grey colour. She didn’t look like my wife, and it was the first time I cried in many years.’
He described how he stood by her side and put his left hand on her nose and right hand over her mouth to smother her.
Speaking on the steps of Paphos District Court, a visibly emotional Hunter said: ‘I’d like to say thank you to all the people who’ve donated to me, and especially my mates and my workmates. I don’t know where I would be without them’
Pictured: David and Janice Hunter seen on their wedding day
When prosecutor Andreas Hadjikyrou suggested that Mrs Hunter struggled and scratched him as he smothered her, Hunter told him: ‘She never struggled, she never moved. You are talking nonsense.’
Mr Hadjikyrou then suggested Hunter had planned to kill his wife and did not tell her, to which he replied: ‘I would never in a million years take my wife’s life if she had not asked me.
‘She wasn’t just my wife, she was my best friend.’ He added: ‘She wasn’t crazy, you haven’t seen the strain of the last six years, what she’s gone through.
‘The situation, the pressure. I wouldn’t like anyone to go through the last six months we both went through.’
The prosecutor responded: ‘Mr Hunter, there are people that go through much worse pain.’
Hunter said he didn’t tell the doctors of his wife’s suicidal wishes because she asked him not to, fearing they would take her into hospital. He didn’t tell their daughter because he didn’t want to ‘worry’ her.
After the cross examination finished, Hunter asked to address the judge. He told him: ‘My wife was suffering and she actually said, “I don’t want to live any more”, and I still said no.
‘Then she started to become hysterical. I was hoping she would change her mind. I loved her so much. I did not plan it, I swear to God.’
Hunter continued: ‘For six weeks she asked if I could help her. For six weeks I refused.’
Describing her agony, he told Paphos District Court: ‘She was lying down, she was in pain, suffering. I would do anything to help her. The last thing on my mind was to take her life. The last thing.’
Asked how the last few days were, Hunter said: ‘She was crying, crying, crying, begging, begging, begging.
‘She wasn’t taking any care of herself. The last two or three weeks she could not move her arms and had trouble with her legs, she couldn’t balance.
‘She was only eating soup, she couldn’t hold anything down. She lost a lot of weight. She lost so much weight that there was no flesh to put her injections in.’
He said in those final days he was ‘thinking about what to do 24/7’ before finally taking the decision to go through with it when she once more started crying out in pain.
Hunter said: ‘I remember that I had my hand on her mouth and nose. I don’t even know how I thought about it. I don’t know how long I kept my hands there for.
‘She did not attempt to stop me… I don’t even think she opened her eyes.’
After she died, he kissed her forehead and told her he loved her, before confessing to his brother who alerted the police. He said he cannot remember being arrested or giving interviews to police.
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