PAPHOS, Cyprus (AP) —
Defense lawyers for a British man on trial for causing the death of his wife in Cyprus’ coastal resort town of Paphos said Monday they’re hopeful the court will suspend any sentence it hands down to their client after he pleads guilty to manslaughter next week.
Briton David Hunter faced a charge of premeditated murder in last year’s death of his wife, Janice, although his defense lawyers had asked Cyprus’ attorney-general to charge the 75 year-old only with assisted suicide in order to keep him from serving time in prison — a request they said was denied.
State Prosecutor Andreas Hadjikyrou said the court on Monday granted an adjournment until Dec. 13, when Hunter’s defense will also argue for mitigation. The court is expected to pass sentence a few days later, with defense lawyers hoping that will happen before Christmas.
Although manslaughter carries a maximum life sentence, it’s unlikely Hunter will receive a long prison term, Hadjikyrou said, adding that the prosecution won’t object to the Briton serving out any prison sentence in the U.K.
Michael, Polak, a spokesman for Justice Abroad, a group that defends Britons embroiled in legal difficulties in foreign countries, said there’s no precedent for such “euthanasia, manslaughter-type cases” in Cyprus and the court would have to to look to similar cases in other common law countries like Canada and India.
“And if the court follows their treatment of euthanasia-type cases, a suspended sentence is a distinct possibility and that’s what we’ll be asking the court to do,” Polak said after Monday’s hearing.
In Cyprus, any sentence of up to three years imprisonment can be suspended, according to Polak.
Hunter’s wife Janice, 74, died in December 2021 at the couple’s retirement home in Paphos, where many of the island’s up to 60,000 British expatriates live. The details of how she died have not yet been made public. Polak had said that Janice was on heavy medication for a type of terminal blood cancer.
Hunter’s daughter, Lesley, was quoted in British media as saying that her mother had “begged him for a long time (to assist her death) and was very clear about what she wanted.”
Hadjikyrou, the state prosecutor, had said defense attorneys turned down an earlier deal for Hunter to plead guilty to manslaughter and that there was no tangible evidence — like a written note — to suggest that Hunter’s wife had ever asked him specifically to help her die.
Hunter had been so distraught after his wife’s death that he attempted suicide, according to Polak.