Mavis Eccleston, 80, cleared of murdering husband was 'hung, drawn and quartered' by police, family say

Phoebe Southworth
Mavis Eccleston, 80, gave her terminally ill husband Dennis, 81, a lethal cocktail of prescription medication in a

The family of an 80-year-old cleared of murdering her husband in a failed suicide pact claim she was "hung, drawn and quartered" by police who said they would make an example of her.

Mavis Eccleston gave her terminally ill husband Dennis, 81, a lethal cocktail of prescription medication in a "mercy killing" before downing the deadly mixture herself at their bungalow in Huntington, Staffordshire.

A 14-page suicide note penned by Mrs Eccleston told how the couple, who had been married for almost 60 years, were ending their lives because of "ill-health, harassment and neighbourhood tensions".  

They were rushed to hospital after being found unconscious by relatives on February 20 last year.

Mr Eccleston, a retired miner who had refused treatment for bowel cancer after being diagnosed in 2015, was subject to a "do not resuscitate" order, but Mrs Eccleston was revived.

Mrs Eccleston with her family outside Stafford Crown Court after she was cleared of murder and manslaughter following a two-week trial Credit: Matthew Cooper/PA

The great-grandmother and mother-of-three was accused of giving her husband the drugs when he was unaware it was a potentially lethal overdose, but she was cleared of murder and manslaughter following a two-week trial at Stafford Crown Court.

Her heartbroken family have now spoken out about her ordeal, claiming she suffered degrading and insensitive treatment as she was dragged through the legal system.

Mrs Eccleston's son Kevin, 60, claims a senior detective at Staffordshire Police told him and his sister Joy, 54: "I am going to make a precedent of your mother's case."

Kevin replied "so you've hung, drawn and quartered her" and alleges the detective responded "it's the law of the land".

Mrs Eccleston's family also claim she was arrested and kept in a police cell for 30 hours wearing the same nightie, dressing gown and slippers she had on in hospital, and that officers denied her access to a toilet when she told them she was uncomfortable using the one in her cell.

They claim she was also left in tears in hospital after a psychiatric nurse told her: "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".

Mr Eccleston passed away while holding hands with his wife in adjoining hospital beds. She said he shed a tear and died just after she reminded him of their first kiss back in 1958.

The day the couple took the lethal cocktail of drugs, Mrs Eccleston said she had heard her husband crying out "like a wounded animal" at 3am and they then agreed it was the right time for him to end his life.

Mrs Eccleston's case has shone a spotlight onto the issue of assisted suicide, which is illegal in the UK. Her family is backing calls for a new law allowing patients given less than six months to live the right to die.

The Crown had alleged that the couple had not formed a "clear and common" agreement to end their own lives and that it being a "mercy killing" was no defence to Mrs Eccleston's actions.

But Mrs Eccleston said her husband had "more or less begged" for her help to end his life and given her instructions how to do it.

She said she told him: "If that's the way you are going then I am coming too."

Mrs Eccleston told The Mail on Sunday: "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. I wanted to be with my husband.

"You wouldn't let an animal suffer the way Dennis was suffering."

Mark Heywood QC, who defended Mrs Eccleston in court, said her husband had "made it clear he wanted to die on his own terms, in his own time".

After they took the deadly cocktail, Mrs Eccleston told the court her husband said "goodnight darling" as she went to lie down on the sofa, and she told him "goodnight, God bless".  

Staffordshire Police and the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees mental health services in the area, have been contacted for comment.