83-year-old ex-policeman spared prison over ‘mercy killing’ of his wife

Grenville Richings, 83, became “deeply desperate” at her constant pain and failing health, a court heard.

Richings, who admitted the ­manslaughter of wife Betty, 83, on June 3, tried to kill himself afterwards and wrote in his journal: “Peace, may God forgive me.”

Judge Timothy Mousley KC, who imposed an 18-month suspended prison sentence, told him yesterday: “You are a man of exemplary character; you have never committed any other offence.

“Your remorse was immediate and profound and I am satisfied that you believed the killing was an act of mercy. You were dedicated and devoted to each other, you were there for each other, both physically and emotionally over many, many years and you were doing so on June 3.

“I conclude the mental torment engendered by the impossible situation in which you found yourself must have been intolerable.”

Judge Mousley told Salisbury Crown Court Betty’s medical conditions led to Richings becoming depressed and “suffering an abnormality of mental function” when he killed her at the couple’s home in Bournemouth. The court heard both Richings and Betty had severe health problems and acted as carers for each other for a number of years.

Betty was blind and could recognise her children only by their voices.

She was also in constant pain after a number of falls. In her last, on May 11, she broke her back.

The court was told Richings had heart problems and relied on his wife, a former nurse, for assistance. Patrick Gibbs KC, in mitigation, said: “[Betty’s] pain was an omnipresent shadow to their lives.

“He gave her the last thing left to both of them – peace at last.”

After the sentencing, Det Insp Mark Jenkins, of Dorset Police, said: “This was a tragic incident that has had a devastating impact on the loved ones of Elizabeth Richings

“I hope Grenville Richings’ guilty plea and the sentence can bring some opportunity for the family to start to come to terms with the loss of Elizabeth.”


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