A 95-year-old man who battered his wife of 65 years with a hammer in attempted mercy killing has been spared jail. Denver Beddows attacked his wife Olive, 88, at their home in Warrington, Cheshire, after she begged him to take her life because she did not want to die in a care home or hospital. Ms Beddows suffered multiple skull fractures and lacerations, but is making a “good recovery” in hospital.
Sentencing the pensioner – who had been in custody since the incident – the Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, said a judge’s last remark in a case was usually the actual sentence but he told Beddows immediately that he would not be going to jail so as not to “prolong your agony”.
Judge Goldstone noted Ms Beddows had forgiven her husband and wished to be reunited with him.
He said: “That is indeed true love, no doubt earned by you over 65 years of devoted and loyal, loving married life, described by you as perfect and happy.
Denver Beddows and Olive Beddows have been married for 65 years (PA)
Liverpool Crown Court heard the couple’s marriage was “perfect and happy” but both their physical and mental health suffered after Mss Beddows was involved in a car accident about nine months before the attack on 4 February.
Ms Beddows dreaded being take into care and repeatedly asked her husband, who had suffered long-term depression himself, to kill her before, under “immense pressure”, he hit her with a pan before he struck a number of blows to her head with a lump hammer.
The judge added: “It is an irony that, following your attack upon her, you rued the fact that she had not died because you regarded yourself as having failed her by failing in your efforts to kill her.
“There is no place in a case of this kind for the inflexible application of sentencing guidelines and the guidelines acknowledge as much in the case of what would have been a mercy killing had it succeeded.
“Whether you will be able to spend the rest of your days together is not a decision for me. I know that will not be facilitated or allowed to happen if the authorities consider that your wife remains at risk from a further attack from you, whatever your motives may be.”
Beddows, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to attempted murder, was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for two years.
Denver Beddows leaves Liverpool Crown Court with an unidentified woman (PA)
Anya Horwood, prosecuting, said Ms Beddows had become “more anxious” in the weeks preceding the attack, with her mental health described as “fragile”.
The couple’s son, also named Denver, found “blood everywhere” when he visited their home in Dam Lane, Woolston, and heard his father say: “I tried to kill your mother.”
His parents were sitting on the bathroom floor with the defendant cradling his wife with her head on a pillow, the court heard.
Later Beddows told a police officer that his wife was “going mad” and went on to say: “Why did she not die? Don’t try to bring her back.”
He went on to say: “I have made a mess of it and now she is still suffering … Why didn’t she die? She is the most beautiful woman in the world and I have made it worse. I would happily be a murderer.
“She has been like that for weeks. I couldn’t keep it up. She was petrified about going into hospital.
“She didn’t want to live. I am sorry. I loved her dearly.”
Philip Tully, defending, said: “He had not agreed to end his wife’s life at the first request but did so following repeated requests at a time when he was in a state of exhaustion and despair in relation to his wife’s well-being.”
He submitted that his client had acted spontaneously with the “briefest intention to end his wife’s life”.
Psychiatric reports had showed Beddows — who had a history of depression dating back to 1962 — was “clearly under a great degree of mental strain and was not thinking straight”, he added.
Mr Tully said: “In my submission there would be no purpose in sending this man to immediate custody. He is a man who loved his wife dearly and describes his 65 years of marriage as ‘perfect and happy’.
“He says ‘We just loved each other and enjoyed other’s company. I loved her to bits. We never had any problems’.”
Mr Tully said: “It is not expected that Mrs Beddows will be in a fit state to return home even if she wanted to. I am told that although she had been concerned about being taken into hospital, in fact the hospital where she is at the moment she likes and she is being well cared for.
A frail Beddows listened to the proceedings via headphones from the dock.
Judge Goldstone told him: “Although this was a terrible crime, the blame which attaches to you for what you did is far outreached by the tragedy of the situation and the circumstances in which you found yourself in.
“Your acts were acts of last resort because you had failed to persuade her that she was going nowhere.
“Sadly, cases of this kind are no longer unusual or exceptional as once they were. The increase in their numbers might suggest that the courts’ emphasis should be on punishment and deterrence rather than the exercise of compassion.
“But the reality of the situation is that each case of this kind will turn on its own facts. There may be elderly defendants, even very elderly defendants, whose previous history or whose offending makes the imposition of an immediately custodial sentence wholly appropriate.
“Your character built up over 95 years leaves me in no doubt that this court will not see the like of you again.”