Sheffield man, 73, jailed for wife's 'mercy killing'

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A man who suffocated his 75-year-old wife in a "mercy killing" has been jailed for two years.

George Webb, 73, killed his wife Beryl at their ground-floor flat in Luke Lane, Wadsley, Sheffield, in May.

He was cleared of murder at Sheffield Crown Court on Wednesday but found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Webb's trial heard how his wife begged him to help her die after years of suffering pain from several ailments.

The judge, Mr Justice McCombe, heard pleas from Webb's legal team to spare him from a prison term.

But the judge said: "This was an unlawful killing and Mr Webb's responsibility for it is diminished, it is not extinguished.

"It cannot be thought that an unlawful killing committed in such circumstances can result in a sentence leaving the offender at liberty.

"Mr Webb acknowledged in his evidence that he knew what he was doing was unlawful and that he fully understood the consequences."

Plastic bag

The judge said: "The killing of Mrs Webb was what has come to be called a mercy killing."

He quoted the Court of Appeal, saying any change of approach to such cases was for Parliament not the courts.

The judge said Mrs Webb had suffered a series of medical setbacks in her life including having her kneecaps removed and beating breast cancer.

At the time of her death, she wrongly believed her cancer had returned and that another of her ailments was about to give her a massive, debilitating stroke.

The court heard Mrs Webb had talked for years about killing herself and how her husband could help her.

On 14 May she tried to kill herself with 34 Lorazepam tablets washed down with brandy and orange.

When Webb feared this had not worked he smothered his sleeping wife with a plastic bag and a towel, the court heard.

After the sentencing Det Supt James Abdy, of South Yorkshire Police, said: "This has been a particularly tragic and challenging case for all those involved.

"Our thoughts are with the family; this has clearly been a very difficult time for them and they have been left devastated by the tragic events that occurred in May this year."

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