File image Man kills wife with dementia because it became too much

A Retired policeman killed his dementia-stricken wife after caring for her ‘simply became too much'

Douglas Addison – who also has Alzheimer's – hit 88-year-old Mary with a walking stick before smothering her.

The 89-year-old had become confused by the rapid onset of his own condition and turned away help from social workers, a court was told. A hearing this week found he had killed his wife of 67 years, and the judge ordered he be detained in hospital indefinitely.

The couple's neighbours said he had coped well caring for Addison until he became ill a few weeks before her death in February.  Her body was discovered by a GP and social worker who visited the couple's bungalow for a check-up, and saw Addison standing over the body through a bedroom window. When they went in, he said: ‘I was thinking about calling you. She is on the floor and she can't get up.'

The severity of his condition only became clear when police searched the home in St Merryn, Cornwall. The fridge contained almost no food, but was packed with more than a dozen bottles of milk. A large pile of newspapers had built up in another room.

A post-mortem examination found the main cause of Addison's death was suffocation, but she had also suffered multiple blunt force trauma. There had been an attempt to strangle her and her right shoulder was dislocated. A walking stick was found nearby.  

Addison was charged with murder, but was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer's after his arrest. He was too ill to enter a plea or attend a two-day ‘trial of the facts' – held to establish what happened rather than find him guilty or innocent. 

This week a jury found that he killed Addison.The judge, Mr Justice Dingemans, made an indefinite hospital order under the 1964 Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act. Exeter Crown Court heard the couple married in 1950 and were often spotted walking around the village holding hands.  Prosecutor Anna Vigers QC said attempts to offer support came to nothing, as Addison believed he could cope with his frail wife. She said the GP and carer went to their home to find Addison ‘overwhelmed, with appalling consequences'. She added: ‘It all simply became too much.' 

A doctor and social worker had visited the couple twice in the week Addison died after their son raised concerns. On the first occasion, the doctor was able to examine her but on the second occasion Addison turned him away.  Ignatius Hughes QC, defending, said Addison is now being treated at a specialist hospital in Berkshire. After the case, Detective Chief Inspector Jo Hall said: ‘This is very sad set of circumstances.'