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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

No plea deal for Briton on trial for killing wife in Cyprus

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A deal for a British man to plead guilty to manslaughter for killing his wife in Cyprus fell through on Tuesday amid recriminations between prosecutors and defence lawyers.

David Hunter, 75, remains on trial for premeditated murder after the plea deal on the lesser charge collapsed. Hunter’s wife Janice, 74, died of asphyxiation in December 2021 at the couple’s retirement home in the coastal resort town of Paphos.

Defence lawyers have called Janice Hunter’s death a matter of euthanasia or assisted suicide, and argued for a sentence that does not include prison time.

They said that just before a court hearing on Tuesday, Cyprus’s attorney general rebuffed what had been agreed were the facts of the case that would have sealed the plea agreement.

Michael Polak, a spokesperson for Justice Abroad, a group that defends Britons facing legal troubles in foreign countries, accused the prosecution of “attempting to ensure that Mr Hunter receives the highest possible sentence”.

“We entered into dialogue with the prosecution in good faith and unfortunately, it appears that the case against Mr Hunter is being treated like a game by the Cypriot authorities,” Mr Polak said.

But state prosecutor Andreas Hadjikyrou said it was the defence that introduced wording on which there was no agreement. He said defence lawyers told the court that Hunter admitted to killing his wife after she had asked him to do it so she would no longer have to suffer from myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood cancer.

Mr Hadjikyrou said the prosecution would not accept Hunter’s claim that his wife asked him to end her life unless he provided proof, either a written note or explicitly having communicated her wishes to the couple’s daughter.

“We don’t want to set a precedent for any husband to kill his wife and then claim after the fact that the killing was done with the wife’s consent,” Mr Hadjikyrou told The Associated Press.

The couple’s daughter, Lesley Cawthorne, was quoted in British media as saying that her mother had clearly conveyed her wish to die to Hunter.

Hunter was so distraught after his wife’s death that he attempted suicide, according to both the prosecution and defence lawyers.

Another issue that interfered with the plea deal is the defence argued that Hunter’s confession to investigators was done under duress and without a lawyer present, the prosecutor said.

The trial is set to continue on December 22, when the court will decide whether to adjudicate on the defence’s argument that Hunter’s confession was obtained unlawfully.

Mr Hadjikyrou had said defence lawyers turned down an earlier deal for Hunter to plead guilty to manslaughter. Defence lawyers instead asked the attorney general to charge Hunter only with assisted suicide in order to keep him from serving time in prison. The request was denied.

Although manslaughter carries a maximum life sentence, Mr Hadjikyrou had said it was unlikely Hunter would receive a long prison term and the prosecution will not object to him serving out any time he receives in the UK.

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