A pensioner who killed his wife after fearing an imagined £22,000 debt to a loan shark would leave them homeless has been detained indefinitely.
Hugh Webber, 79, stabbed Angela Webber, 77, a total of 15 times with two knives during an attack at their home in the village of Dunster, Somerset.
Webber was arrested and charged with murder but a judge ruled he was unfit to stand trial after hearing evidence from psychiatrists.
Instead, a jury at Bristol Crown Court decided on Thursday he had unlawfully killed his wife.
Judge William Hart ordered Webber to be detained indefinitely in a psychiatric unit under Sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act.
He had heard evidence from a psychiatrist that Webber was suffering from dementia and was also being prescribed medication to treat an organic delusional disorder.
Passing sentence, Judge Hart said: “I have heard clear and compelling evidence from a psychiatrist.
“There is no doubt the appropriate disposal is by an order under the Mental Health Act 1983 to both treat the defendant and, in the case of homicides like this, to protect the public.
“I am satisfied Mr Webber is suffering from a mental disorder and the most suitable way is making an order under Section 37.
“I am satisfied – because of the nature of the act and the risk of committing further offences – it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm.”
The court heard Webber dialled 999 at about 3am on October 29 2020 and told the operator: “Yesterday, I just tried to murder my wife.”
Both police and paramedics attempted to save Mrs Webber but she was declared dead a short time later.
Three knives were recovered from Webber’s bedroom. Two had his wife’s blood on them.
A post-mortem examination found Mrs Webber died from multiple stab wounds, including to her torso and arm.
Before the killing, Webber developed an irrational fear about the supposed debt, which did not exist, the court heard.
Former neighbour Graham Lamacraft told the jury: “In conversations with Hugh he seemed to have lost all sense of reason and didn’t seem to take on board anything I was being saying in regard to the way he would be evicted.”
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Lucy Bacon said Webber’s delusional disorder was being treated with medication but his dementia would only get worse.
“Dementia is a progressive disease and he will continue to deteriorate over time. It varies with different people so it is not possible to give more certainty,” she said.
“Unfortunately, some people with dementia become acutely paranoid.”
Webber, of St George’s Street, Dunster, was not at the trial or sentencing hearing.
Detective Inspector Neil Meade, senior investigating officer, said: “This was a case where a man experiencing a significant mental illness has killed his wife, causing devastation for her family.
“The circumstances are deeply tragic and our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with them at this immensely difficult time.
“The hospital order imposed on Hugh Webber will ensure he receives the medical care he requires while ensuring the public are kept safe.”