A pensioner called emergency services to tell them he’d killed his wife because he could no longer cope with her dementia.
The incident was featured on the BBC documentary Ambulance, which told the desperate story of the man who apparently killed his wife, who suffered from dementia, because he couldn’t bear to see her moved to a care home.
He was recorded telling emergency services: ‘I’ve killed my wife. She can’t walk, she’s incontinent and I can’t cope, so I’ve killed her.’
The confession happened last year, and it is understood the man was spared jail.
The footage shows the recorded phone call to the emergency services, in which the man – named as Lawrence Franks – described how he had hit his 86-year-old wife with an iron scaffolding pole.
He then requests the police do not use sirens when they come to his house, as it would disturb a birthday party that is happening next door.
Lawrence said he was led to carry out the tragic act because of a heartbreaking promise he had made to his wife as an ‘act of mercy’. They had been married for 62 years.
It was revealed how, in the last 10 years of her life, Lawrence’s wife had begged her husband to never let her be taken to a care home. However, as his wife Patricia’s condition sadly deteriorated, she was no longer able to recognise her husband, and Lawrence found it increasingly difficult to cope.
The pensioner was initially charged with murder, though a judge accepted his guilty plea to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility. Lawrence was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for two years, after Judge David Stockdale QC ruled Lawrence was a ‘devoted man’, who showed ‘nothing but love and affection’ towards his wife Patricia, The Sun reports.
Judge Stockdale said:
This is a most unusual and very sad case and most would say heartbreaking.
You and your wife were happily married for 62 years. You were utterly devoted to each other throughout your marriage and during the decline in her health as you cared for her.
You took care of her, despite your own age, without outside help and your dedication to her was undoubtedly unconditional.
She was particularly anxious not to be placed in a care home, and this was said so repeatedly that this was a genuine concern. But as her health deteriorated, the burden of looking after her became even harder for you. Yet you continued to care for your wife without assistance.
She was completely unaware of what happened to her. There was an abnormality in your mental function. Doctors have confirmed this was diminished responsibility.
The act was a spur of the moment and your genuine belief this was an act of mercy. No two cases are the same. This is far from showing malice or ill will.
The court heard how Lawrence’s wife was ‘completely unaware’ of what was happening, and was found dead at the house when police arrived.
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, please contact Dementia UK on their Helpline for free on 0800 888 6678 or send an email to [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.