A frail British pensioner accused of killing his terminally ill wife in Cyprus has spoken for the first time – as supporters including his daughter say they fear he will die before the case is heard.
Retired miner David Hunter, 75, is accused of smothering Janice, his wife of 56 years – but he and his family insist he only did so after she begged him to end her life following a diagnosis of blood cancer.
As he was remanded in custody for another three months this morning, tearful Hunter told MailOnline: ‘I just want to get home’.
Looking frail, and dressed in a black shirt and black jeans, David told MailOnline: ‘I’m coping OK but I would prefer to be at home with the family.’
Paramedics found Janice last December dead in an armchair at their home on the Mediterranean island where they retired 20 years ago, and he was rushed to hospital barely alive after taking a near fatal overdose.
Prosecutors in Paphos have since charged him with murder – despite efforts by his legal team to get it changed to ‘assisted suicide’.
Retired miner David Hunter (left), 75, is accused of smothering Janice (right), his wife of 56 years – but he and his family insist he only did so after she begged him to end her life following a diagnosis of blood cancer
A prison van carrying David Hunter is shown arriving at the courthouse in Paphos on Thursday
David Hunter (pictured), who celebrated his 75th birthday in Nicosia jail two weeks ago, appeared in court on Thursday where his case was adjourned until September. If convicted, David faces life in jail. His daughter fears he could die before his case is even heard
He appeared in the resort’s district court today where his case was adjourned until September. If convicted, David faces life in jail.
David, originally from Ashington, Northumberland, has been in custody at Nicosia jail since the incident at the home he shared with Janice at Tremithousa.
Although David said conditions were ‘ok’ his lawyers had hoped he would be bailed given his age, but judge Michael Droushiotis adjourned the case until September remanding him in custody saying other cases had precedence.
Speaking after the short hearing, he said: ‘Sometimes at night I just lie in bed thinking through my mind about what happened and parts of it are still blank spaces. I still can’t remember all that happened but I’m coping ok.’
Speaking before the five-minute hearing David said he was ‘grateful to all the support I’ve had from the UK and I have some friends over who are coming to see me in jail. They brought me some dominoes and my reading glasses.
‘I feel optimistic about the outcome and my legal team are doing their best. I just want to get home and the best time of day is the ten minutes on the telephone to my daughter.’
On hearing the news he was being held in custody for three more months, his daughter Lesley Cawthorne gasped. ‘I’m gutted. He’ll die before we get to trial at this rate,’ she said. ‘I know I’m a grown woman but I love my daddy and I just want him home. If he is found guilty he could get 15 years or more, so he will die in prison.’
Speaking to MailOnline Lesley, who cannot attend the trial for health reasons, said: ‘This latest news makes me really worried now. I mean, September? Seriously? I won’t lie, I’m really disappointed and frustrated with how it went.
‘By the time the court date arrives he will have been in prison for nine months. This will be torture for him and very hard to take for me and my dad.
‘He had built himself up for the case and was hoping to get things started but now we have all been left really frustrated. I’m really worried about how my dad will take all this.
‘There’s a real chance he could die without his trial taking place and no attempt at justice being achieved.’
Lesley, from Norwich, added: ‘What really frightens me now, is a knock on the door from the police to tell me that dad hasn’t made it and he has died in prison. Why can’t they just let him out on bail ?
‘He’s a frail, sick old man. What on earth do they think he is going to do ? He loved my mum and he wanted to be with her. We haven’t even been able to grieve properly together for my poor lovely mum’s death yet.
‘We will keep on fighting until he is home and I will let him know about all the messages of support he has from everyone.’
Following the adjournment, as he was led away clearly in tears, he was embraced by pal Kevin Barnfather, 58, who had flown out to the Cyprus for the hearing, along with Barry Kent, 66.
Barry, from Lynemouth, told MailOnline: ‘It’s gutting to see him like this. He looks really weak and frail. He’s not a murderer and OK he said the conditions in prison were fine, but he shouldn’t be there.
Prosecutors say Janice (pictured with David on their wedding day) was murdered by the former miner who then took an overdose to end his own life but survived and was found by paramedics who alerted police
Lesley Hunter (right), whose father, David Hunter (left) is to go on trial in Cyprus accused of murdering his terminally ill wife, has appealed to judges to show ‘compassion’ as he faces dying in jail if convicted
‘He’s not someone who has been on a killing spree, why can’t they bail him? He looks a shell, words really do fail me, it’s sad, it’s desperate, it’s pathetic.’
Barry added:’ We will be supporting him as much as we can, we will go and see him in prison and let him know that he has the backing of a lot of people. He shouldn’t be in prison.
Barry, revealed how ahead of the hearing he had placed flowers on Janice’s grave and said: ‘It was the least I could so. When I spoke to David on Monday before I flew out, he asked me to do it.
‘He also asked me for some reading glasses and some dominoes which I will give to him. I understand they must follow the law but I’m hoping that they will accept maybe manslaughter.
‘Then that way it maybe a lower sentence and he can go back to the UK and serve his time there and be near his daughter Lesley.
‘We just have to hope for the best. It was David and Janice’s dream to retire out here and they loved the life but then she got ill and it turned into a nightmare for them.
‘Janice was the love of his life, everything he did was for Janice, he was always talking about her, he adored her.’
Barrister Michael Polak, from campaign group Justice Abroad, who is representing David, said: ‘Obviously we are very disappointed it didn’t go ahead but we will fight on.
On hearing the news he was being held in custody for three more months, his daughter Lesley Cawthorne (pictured) gasped. ‘I’m gutted. He’ll die before we get to trial at this rate,’ she said
Pictured: The hunter family home is seen in Paphos, Cyprus
‘Bail was always going to be difficult given the charge and that he is a foreign national. Although he is not being treated badly, he shouldn’t be in prison.
‘At least his friends will be going to visit him, but he has problems with his eyes and what was worrying was how thin he looked, I told him he needs to eat more.
‘He has changed considerably in the two months since I last saw him. He looks devastated and he looks like a lonely old man.
The lawyer continued: ‘You have to remember that David was without a translator and a lawyer present when he first spoke to police.
‘At the time he was 74 and you have to question whether it was appropriate for this to be interviewed at the time so quickly, especially as he was later sectioned for ten days. Were his rights protected ? This will be part of our argument when the case gets underway.’
According to local police, David confessed to killing his wife by blocking her nose and mouth with her hands, saying he ‘could not bear to see he suffer anymore’.
Fifi Georg, the owner of the house where the couple were found, was also in court and earlier told Mail Online: ‘David and Janice were a lovely couple.
‘They were still so in love like teenagers, they were like a young couple and he was heartbroken when she was diagnosed with the cancer.
‘Every day he would take her to hospital for treatment and they moved in next door to me about four years ago.
‘They had another property in town which they moved to first when they retire but they sold that to the pay for her treatment.
‘We couldn’t believe it when we heard what had happened. I came home and the police were at the house and I looked through the window and saw Janice sitting in a chair.
‘He had taken the trouble to cover her with a blanket. He had taken some pills and written to his brother and said what he was going to do and he had called the British police who alerted Interpol.
Pictured: Family friend Barry Kent visits Janice Hunter’s grave in Paphos
Pictured: The grave of Janice Hunter is seen in Paphos, Cyprus
‘David should not be in jail. He’s not a cold-blooded murderer, he loved his wife and he was doing what she had asked him to do and then he tried to take his own life as well.
‘They had been together for more than 50 years and they anted to die together, there was no evil intention. I just hope the court sees this and lets him go home to be with his family.’
Another neighbour, German Helmut Pesting who was at court with his wife, said: ‘We met them about two years ago after we moved to Cyprus.
‘They were a lovely couple. They were always together, and he was very proud of her.
‘David was always speaking highly of Janice. He was proud of how long their marriage had lasted and he had lots of pictures of Janice which he would always show.
‘We never heard a quarrel of a bad word between them. This was the first time I had seen him since it all happened, and he looks in a bad way.’
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said: ‘Although this case is about laws in Cyprus, where David and Janice spent their retirement, it demonstrates the cruelty and lack of safety in a blanket ban on assisted dying, which is just as true of the UK. Compassion should not be a crime, but until assisted dying is a legal, regulated choice for those at the end of life in this country, it will remain so.
‘Under our current laws, terminally ill people are forced to suffer against their wishes or take matters into their own hands – either alone or with illegal assistance from loved ones. The Crown Prosecution Service has recognised it is not in the public interest to pursue these cases, however assisted dying remains a crime.
‘The choice over how and when we die should be a right available to terminally ill, mentally competent adults through safeguarded, compassionate healthcare. But only Parliament can make that a reality.
‘Thanks to the British public, more than 140,000 of whom have signed an official government petition on assisted dying, on the 4th of July MPs will debate the issue for the first time in two and a half years. Parliament must be given the chance to examine the harm and injustice caused by the status quo, and then the time and resources to begin a long-overdue process of reform.’
Euthanasia is also currently being debated by the Cypriot parliament and a recent poll showed 60 per cent were in favour of it being legalised.
However it is unlikely that any vote will take place until early next year and there will also be strong opposition from the heavily influential Greek Orthodox church.
If you have been affected by this story, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org.