Devoted couple ‘chose to die together with dignity’

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A happy and devoted couple chose to die ‘with dignity’ after both suffered with deteriorating health.

Peter Thompson, 84, and Sheila Thompson, 88, of The Drive, in Summersdale, Chichester were discovered at home by a care worker on April 19, 2015.

At an inquest into their deaths at County Hall North in Horsham, Detective Constable Lindsey Valder-Davis, from Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: “They had many happy years together and to depart with dignity was their chosen option.”

The couple were last seen alive when Peter collected Sheila, who had severe dementia, from Augusta Court care home where she was living. In the days before their death, Peter had organised a family meal.

“Peter’s health was deteriorating,” said DC Valder-Davis.

“He made detailed diary entries. They had described their intentions of ending their lives together.”

The inquest heard Peter was ‘devastated’ when his wife went into a care home as he wanted to look after her himself.

“Friends and family said he was devoted and very loving,” added DC Valder-Davis.

“Peter coped for a long time before he realised he couldn’t cope any more.”

Peter Thompson was found hanging in the hallway and paramedics found Sheila in a chair in the living room. A post mortem found she died of smothering.

Penelope Schofield, coroner for West Sussex, said: “Clearly this is a very tragic case involving a couple who were devoted to each other. He couldn’t bear the fact he couldn’t continue to care for his wife who had dementia.

“He planned to take his own life and that of his wife and that is why he left letters to family and indeed one to myself.”

She added Sheila Thompson did not have the capacity at the time of her death to make a decision about her own life – and had not signed any of Peter’s notes.

“They had agreed they wished to die together. Sadly this has not been documented by Sheila and has only been evidenced by Peter. Assisted suicide in this country is still unlawful.”

Ms Schofield said it was with ‘some sadness’ she had to record a conclusion of unlawful killing for Sheila and suicide for Peter. She said it was a ‘particularly tragic’ case as the record of inquest didn’t give the full details of this ‘very sad situation’.