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Man ended pain of woman he loved:


17:12 AEST Thu Apr 21 2011

A man who killed his chronically ill partner acted out of selfless love, not evil, and was driven by a desire to end her pain, a court has heard.

A barrister for David Scott Mathers, 66, said his plea of manslaughter was “borne out of exceptional circumstances and cries out for compassion”.

Anthony Bellanto QC said Mathers’ thinking was “substantially impaired” when he suffocated his partner of more than two decades, Eva Griffith, in July 2009 at her Ashfield home.

Mathers told police Ms Griffith, 78, who was suffering from a degenerative spine condition and had wanted to commit suicide because she was in constant pain.

He said she had tried to overdose on antidepressants on July 5, and he tried to help end her life by giving her more pills when the initial suicide attempt failed.

She was still alive on July 7 and Mathers said he then “finished what she’d started”.

“I suffocated her,” he told police.

Asked how, he replied: “With great difficulty. The coroner’s gunna find bruising around her neck … consistent with asphyxia.”

Mathers said Ms Griffith had struggled “a little bit” when he at first smothered her with a pillow.

“She seemed to be getting air from somewhere. I tried it with a towel and putting pressure on the airways, the mouth and nostrils and then I used a plastic bag,” he said.

He took the bag from her head and binned it outside the unit, saying he thought he could avoid facing criminal charges but later realised there was evidence of physical harm.

But he later added: “I’d rather be facing you (the police) than facing her not having done it.”

Mathers said in the interview he had discussed with Ms Griffith assisting in her suicide and said a note found under her pillow had been written by her two days earlier.

She held fears of living in a nursing home and not being able to look after herself, the court heard.

Mathers was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

In his sentencing submissions, Mr Bellanto said this was not a case for punishment or one in which the community needed protection.

“The offender’s crime was borne out of selfless love, not evil, and motivated by relief of suffering by the deceased,” he said.

“(He) was torn between love and respect for her and the temptation to end the pain.

“We submit the community, society, in a case such as this would understand and accept that if justice is tempered by mercy, justice would be done.”

Mr Bellanto said it was of importance that Ms Griffith’s family supported Mathers in his current position, and submitted that his arrest and court proceedings were “sufficient recognisance”.

Crown prosecutor Mark Hobart SC, in seeking a suspended sentence, acknowledged that had Mathers not “openly and honestly admitted to police what had occurred … we wouldn’t be here”.

But Mr Hobart said there was no medical evidence that said nothing could have been done for Ms Griffith.

Justice Peter Hall continued Mathers’ bail and will sentence him on April 28.

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