A court in Cyprus has adjourned the trial of a Briton, accused of murdering his cancer-stricken wife, for an eighth time, highlighting the sensitivity that the case has elicited in a country that continues to outlaw euthanasia.
A judge sitting in the south-western town of Paphos delayed the hearing for a week after the prosecutor told the tribunal that the attorney general, the island’s top legal officer, required more time to study the file.
“Further clarifications are needed,” said Andreas Hadjikyrou, the prosecuting counsel. “This is the first time that a case like this is being heard in Cyprus.”
David Hunter, who has been imprisoned since the death of his wife, Janice, last December, looked dismayed as he stood in the dock and it became clear that proceedings would be postponed.
Tuesday’s court hearing followed the adjournment of the case last week after the British pensioner’s legal team was asked to submit its arguments in writing. Three weeks earlier both sides had informed the three-member panel of judges that because progress had been made, and they had agreed on the facts of the case, Hunter would be pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The 76-year-old retired miner, who has confessed to fatally blocking his terminally ill wife’s air passages, had previously stood accused of premeditated murder.
“Facts have been agreed between the defence and prosecution for a change of plea to manslaughter,” said Michael Polak, the British barrister who heads the London-based legal aid group Justice Abroad, who had flown in for the hearing. “We hope that when the matter next comes back before the court on 20 December we can proceed with the change of plea, the agreed facts, and mitigation.”
Hunter has always maintained that he smothered Janice after the 75-year-old pleaded persistently with him to put her out of the pain she was suffering as a result of worsening leukaemia.
The couple, originally from Ashingdon, were teenage sweethearts and had been together for more than 50 years when they retired to Tremithousa, a village in the hills outside Paphos popular with British expats.
By 18 December last year when he carried out the alleged mercy killing, his wife’s deteriorating health was such that she had lost her eyesight and found it almost impossible to eat.
Hunter tried to take his own life, overdosing on alcohol and prescription pills, after his wife died.
He has spent nearly all of the last year incarcerated in Cyprus’ central prison in Nicosia, the island’s capital.
“I am well enough but I just want this trial to be over,” he said last Thursday. “When this is all over hopefully I’d like to stay in Cyprus and be close to her. This is where we moved 22 years ago and this is where she is buried and so this is where I want to be.”