Suffolk man admits helping wife to die

A SUFFOLK pensioner has risked criminal prosecution after he admitted on television to helping his seriously ill wife take a drug overdose which led to her death.

Lizzie Parry

A SUFFOLK pensioner has risked criminal prosecution after he admitted on television to helping his seriously ill wife take a drug overdose which led to her death.

Barrie Sheldon, 77, who lives near Framlingham, said he helped his wife Elizabeth count up the antidepressants before leaving the house for the weekend, knowing she was planning to take an overdose.

His admission comes after BBC presenter Ray Gosling was arrested on suspicion of murder after admitting on a TV programme to suffocating his lover, who was suffering from Aids.


You may also want to watch:


Mrs Sheldon, described as having a “dazzling smile,” was suffering from Huntington's disease, a hereditary condition which causes dementia and physical deterioration.

She first started to display the symptoms in 1977.

Most Read

Her husband said it was “as if she had her mind taken away.” He added: “When she learned what she had she decided that she would end it. She knew it was hopeless that she was going to die anyway in an unpleasant and protracted period of time.”

He described how she went to her GP every week building up a stock of antidepressants which he then helped her to count out, until she had “rather more than” 4g.

“We chose a weekend and I went away on the Saturday morning and I left her and she was alone. If I had stopped in the house the police would have put a murder charge on me,” Mr Sheldon told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

“I went out in carpet slippers in my car, because of the state of mind I was in I had forgotten to put shoes on. It was the worst weekend of my life.”

When Mr Sheldon returned home on the Sunday, back in 1982, he raced up the stairs and discovered his wife was still alive, she had fallen out of bed and was semi-conscious.

He said: “She was so incredibly brave.”

After calling an ambulance and rushing to hospital with his wife, Mr Sheldon said doctors were aware there was no way he would allow her to be revived. He added: “It was unthinkable after her magnificent courage that they would bring her back to the nightmare she was in.”

Mrs Sheldon had signed a living will, which once presented to the doctors by her GP, all treatment to prolong her life was stopped. She died four days later.

Her husband's decision to speak out on Newsnight last Friday has left him facing the prospect of prosecution and 14 years in prison under the Suicide Act 1961.

But Mr Sheldon said he “doesn't care a damn.” He said: “Let them, let them. I suppose in a way it would make up for my inadequacies at the time. It is a challenge and I'll take it.

“I feel guilty now, I wasn't at home. I should have done my duty, I should have smothered her, but it would have been very difficult.”

His admission comes in the same week as BBC presenter Ray Gosling was arrested on suspicion of murder after admitting suffocating his lover, who was suffering from Aids, on a TV programme. He has been released on police bail.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus