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30 April 2010, 17:32
A Hamshire pensioner walked free from court today after being cleared of murdering his wife of 50 years whom he stabbed to death in a failed suicide pact.
But Peter Cooper, 72, was found guilty of the manslaughter of his wife, Audrey, 70, who was stabbed twice as they sat on a bench in Mountbatten War Memorial Park, Romsey, Hampshire, on January 18 last year.
Winchester Crown Court heard that Cooper, a former warrant officer in the Army, then stabbed himself three times and held his dead wife in his arms as he waited to die himself.
But Cooper recovered from his self-inflicted injuries and was charged with murder, which the jury cleared him of today.
The jury however found Cooper guilty of manslaughter on the grounds that he had intended to enter into a suicide pact with his wife.
The judge, Mr Justice Silber, sentenced Cooper to a prison sentence of two years but because of the amount of time he had spent on remand he was able to walk free from court today.
The court heard how Cooper, of Highfield Lane, Southampton, waited for two hours after he had stabbed his wife before he contacted the emergency services. In a 999 call read to the court, Cooper said: "I've stabbed her. Yeah and I've
tried to stab myself, I didn't do quite such a good job on it.''
The trial heard that Cooper had claimed to have entered a suicide pact with his wife because they could not face her being sectioned in hospital because of her deteriorating mental health. The court heard that Cooper had written a letter to their only daughter, Karen Bolarinwa, explaining their "joint decision'' to end their lives.
The letter said:
"We have made a joint decision that the only way we can be together and be at peace is to end our lives. It is not an easy decision and it breaks our hearts knowing what it will do to you. Please forgive us, this is not at all the intended way but we just cannot go on like this.''
Mrs Bolarinwa said in a statement read to the court that her parents had always been "extremely loyal'' to each other.
She said they had retired to a villa with a pool in Murcia, southern Spain, where for several years they enjoyed an "idyllic lifestyle''.
But she said her mother had become depressed after she began to suffer arthritis which prevented her from enjoying her active lifestyle. The couple moved back to Southampton in April 2008 after her mental health deteriorated further which Mrs Bolarinwa said caused much "anguish'' for the family.
She said that her mother's behaviour became "bizarre'' including running off screaming, pulling her hair out and hitting Mr Cooper as he was driving.
Mrs Bolarinwa said that her mother was sectioned at the end of April 2008 when she fought with the ambulance crew as they took her to hospital. The court was told that after Mrs Cooper was released in June 2008, she took two overdoses later that year, including once on her daughter's birthday in October 2008.
Mrs Bolarinwa said: "She told me she didn't want to live, she even asked her grandson Jordan to assist her.'' Her condition deteriorated again in January 2009 and the couple were visited by psychiatrists two days before Mrs Cooper died who recommended that she be sectioned again.
But Mr Cooper refused to give his consent and he told police he could not allow her to return to hospital. In the 999 call made by Mr Cooper, he told the controller:
"Audrey was sectioned under the Mental Health Act last year and she came out in June and it's gradually been getting worse. And she just can't, I can't cope with her and she was liable to be sent back in to the psychiatric hospital but I didn't want her to go because it's so traumatic for her and she is so traumatic.''
Mrs Cooper's sister Gwen Marsh told the court that the couple had always been inseparable and utterly devoted to each other`` but in the weeks before the death, her sister had talked often about death.
In a statement released through police after her mother's death, Mrs Bolarinwa said:
"My mum was a kind and gentle person who suffered from mental health problems. The family are deeply saddened by what has happened.''
POST VERDICT STATEMENT MADE BY KAREN THE DAUGHTER OF PETER & AUDREY COOPER ON BEHALF OF THE FAMILY
“There is no right or wrong verdict in this case.
“It has been a deeply sad event in all our lives.
“My Dad has been in prison for 15 months and punishing him any further will not bring back my Mum. My Dad let his heart rule his head and, in trying to protect my Mum, and prevent her from being “locked away”, as she saw it, he inadvertently sacrificed his own freedom and reputation.
“My Mum had a good life and did not always suffer from mental illness; her death has left me with an emptiness that can never be filled.
“I hope she has finally found some peace.”
Commenting on the outcome of the trial, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Guy Robyns from Hampshire’s Major Crime Department said: “This was a sad and tragic case that we were faced with, but it was our responsibility to fully and thoroughly investigate it, gather all available evidence, and present that evidence to the court.
“That has enabled the Judge and Jury to ultimately reach their verdict.
“However, it is not our responsibility to question their verdict or comment upon any sentencing imposed upon the defendant, as we must remain totally impartial throughout the entire process.
“We do however feel that taking all aspects into account, the best possible sentence was reached for all concerned.”