Cannock pensioner has no regrets over failed suicide pact

Mavis Eccleston, 80, was acquitted of her husband’s murder last week.

Mavis Eccleston outside Stafford Crown Court
Mavis Eccleston outside Stafford Crown Court

An 80-year-old woman who was last week acquitted of murdering her dying husband after a failed suicide pact says she would “do it all again” if she had her time over.

Mavis Eccleston also says she was forced to endure several indignities after being arrested over the death of her husband Dennis near Cannock in February last year.

In a case which has shone a light on the assisted dying debate, Mrs Eccleston has said in an emotional interview she does not regret assisting her cancer-stricken husband to die, but that she was annoyed to wake up in hospital and realise her simultaneous attempt at suicide had failed.

“My life was nothing without him, so I didn’t care about living. If Dennis asked me to do it all again today, I would,” Mrs Eccleston said in the interview, which appears in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror.

“I wanted to be with my husband. You wouldn’t let an animal suffer the way Dennis was suffering.

“I don’t regret what I did and wouldn’t change what happened. I live with a very contended family and I am happy for them – but I would still rather be with Dennis.”

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Mrs Eccleston, formerly of Huntington, said it was in 2015 that her husband – who she married in 1958 – told her he intended to end his life rather than live through his deteriorating bowel cancer.

She said she had replied: “If that’s the way you are going then I am coming too.”

In February last year, Mrs Eccleston penned a long suicide note to their family, and then the couple attempted to take their own lives.

“Goodnight darling,” were Mr Eccleston’s last words, to which Mrs Eccleston said she replied, “Goodnight, God bless”.

Hours later, Mrs Eccleston woke up in hospital, alongside her husband, who was soon to die.

“When I saw the nurses around me, when I realised I hadn’t died, I felt … well, very annoyed,” she said.

Arrested in her dressing gown

Mrs Eccleston said what followed was a series of indignities.

She said she was arrested in her dressing gown, nightie and slippers, held in a cell for 30 hours, and was still wearing the same clothes when released.

Police had also denied her access to a proper toilet, Mrs Eccleston said, after she complained of feeling uncomfortable using the prison-style toilet in her cell.

She was also left in tears, she said, after a psychiatric nurse allegedly told her in her hospital bed: “We have got to wait for the police because you have murdered your husband and you are going to prison for a long, long time.”

Mrs Eccleston said her late husband was “honest, honourable and hard-working … a man who above all else loved his wife and family”.

He was also a profoundly dignified man who refused treatment for his cancer, and who wanted to die privately, “without having to be a burden on anyone”.

Campaigners said the case showed reform was needed on the issue of assisted dying.

Sarah Wooton, chief executive of Dignity In Dying – which campaigns for the legalisation of assisted suicide, told the Mail: “Our broken law has forced a dying man to end his own life in secret, and threatened his devoted wife of 60 years with life imprisonment for acting purely out of love. An honest, caring family has been dragged through hell for the last 18 months.”

Staffordshire Police told the Mail: “We are not aware of any concerns raised by Mavis Ecclestone (sic) or her family about the way that she was treated by anyone in Staffordshire Police.

"If Mrs Ecclestone or her family would like to discuss any concerns with us we would encourage them to get in touch.”

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