A LEIGH Park pensioner who butchered his housebound wife after snapping under the pressure of caring for her has been freed in an act of mercy by judges.
Peter Beaver, 81, was originally jailed for three years at Winchester Crown Court in December last year after he admitted the manslaughter of his wife Annie.
Mrs Beaver, 82, suffered fatal chest wounds following a ‘brutal and sustained’ knife attack by her husband of 60 years.
Beaver had been a ‘loving’ spouse to her, Lord Justice Gross told London’s Court of Appeal today, but was finding it impossible to cope with the burden of caring for her.
She was suffering from dementia, diabetes and poor mobility, the court heard, and had become increasingly cantankerous.
Beaver, of Sherfield Avenue, was chronically exhausted – making do with two hours’ sleep each night.
He had to sleep in a chair downstairs to tend his wife so that he could adjust her position during the night.
And there was evidence that she would shout at him or “shine a flashlight in his face” to rouse him if she needed help.
Mrs Beaver was discovered slumped dead in her chair after the police were called.
Beaver told them: ‘I’ve killed my wife, I stabbed her and she is not breathing.’
She had defensive wounds on top of her fatal injuries, which indicated that she ‘put up a struggle’.
The case reached the Court of Appeal yesterday as Beaver challenged his sentence with claims that it was too harsh.
He had symptoms of dementia at the time of his sentence which have become far more acute behind bars, said Lord Justice Gross.
He needs a ‘supervisor’ to help him cope with prison life and has little recollection of those around him.
In conversations with prison staff, he often asks them ‘when can I go home?’, the court heard.
Beaver’s legal team claimed his sentence was excessive but Lord Justice Gross, who was sitting with Mrs Justice Laing and Judge Francis Gilbert QC, said it was just and fair.
However, in light of his poor health and the ‘sad picture of him as he now is,’ an act of mercy was called for, said Lord Justice Gross.
He said: ‘We are satisfied that justice will be done if we quash the sentence of imprisonment and substitute a suspended sentence.’
The court handed Beaver a two-year sentence, suspended for two years.