Man tried to smother dying mother, 92, in act of ‘unadulterated love’, jury told

<span>David McLean outside Winchester crown court. He denies attempted murder. </span><span>Photograph: David Clarke/Solent News & Photo Agency/Solent News</span>
David McLean outside Winchester crown court. He denies attempted murder. Photograph: David Clarke/Solent News & Photo Agency/Solent News

A former mayor attempted to smother his dying 92-year-old mother with a cushion to end her suffering in an act of “pure and simple unadulterated love”, a jury has been told.

David McLean, 72, who was described by the prosecution as an “upstanding” citizen, allegedly said: “Sorry, Mum” before putting a cushion over Margaret McLean’s face, the court heard.

He is said to have told an emergency services operator he realised what he had done made him a murderer but he said he could not bear to see her suffer any longer. He went on to say: “I had to kill her. She was suffocating in her own snot.”

At the start of the trial at Winchester crown court, the judge, Mrs Justice McGowan, told the jury that an assisted dying debate was taking place in the House of Commons but instructed them to disregard it, saying it was just a “coincidence”.

The court heard that Margaret McLean had been unable to leave her bed for several years and at the time of her death in 2022 had not had a “lucid conversation” in 18 months.

David McLean, a former mayor of Winchester in Hampshire, was called by carers to her home in the village of Waltham Chase and told she was close to death.

Jodie Mittell, prosecuting, said: “On any view this is a sad case. The defendant is an upstanding member of the community, someone of impeccably good character.

“On the evening of 6 October 2022, for reasons you may have some sympathy with, he tried to end his elderly mother’s life. Margaret was dying. Sadly he tried to speed up his mother’s demise with a pillow.

“He attempted to smother her. He said he had shown his mother compassion, pure and simple unadulterated love. He said his intention was to end her suffering, she was in pain.”

McLean is accused of attempted murder. The prosecutor said: “The crown don’t suggest that he actually caused his mother’s death. She could have died at any time. Even though she did pass away at or around the time of his actions, the allegation is that of attempted murder.”

After the incident, McLean called 111 to report his mother’s death. Mittell said: “He volunteered the words: ‘I had to kill her.’” He allegedly added: “I put a cushion on her face, I know that puts me as a murderer ... I had to do it to put her out of her suffering.”

At a police station, McLean told officers he used a cushion to smother his mother after she had been “gurgling in her chest and screaming”.

In an interview, McLean said: “I can’t remember where the cushion came from but I can remember putting it over her face and saying ‘Sorry, Mum’.”

McLean’s barrister, Sarah Jones KC, told the jury the prosecution case was founded on the words of a grieving son under acute stress. McLean denies attempted murder.

The court heard a postmortem concluded Margaret McLean died of bronchopneumonia. The trial continues.