Judge tells Sheila Sampford ‘mercy killing’ was an evil act

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The family of a 75-year-old woman jailed for life for murdering her terminally-ill husband have spoken of their devastation.

Sheila Sampford began her sentence on Wednesday after a judge refused to accept she strangled 83-year-old John Sampford as an act of mercy.

Her only daughter, school governor Caroline Vane and her husband David, were not in court to hear the verdict.

David, who lives on Middleton, told the Citizen: “We have found it extremely difficult. It is all very distressing and I don’t think we will ever come to terms with it.”

Mrs Sampford, who wore her wedding ring in court, bowed her head when the judge ruled she serve a minimum nine years of a life sentence. She walked with a stick as she was led towards the cells.

Described as a loving and faithful wife during her 50- year marriage, she dialled 999 early one morning last July to confess: “I just murdered my husband.”

She went on to explain that John had leukaemia and had two or three months to live.

“I just don’t know if I’m coming or going. I can’t think straight. It all got too much. I said to John, ‘I am going to strangle you and he said ‘yes please’. Those were his words.”

Police arrived at the couple’s Bancroft Park home to find retired coach painter Mr Sampford dead on the bed with a bandage tied round his neck and two pillows over his head. When arrested Mrs Sampford told police: “I just snapped. I had to do it. It was a cry for help.”

The court heard how she had called her daughter the previous day and said: “Can you come over? Dad’s ill. I am ill. I can’t cope.”

Before she was sentenced Mrs Sampford told the judge her husband’s final words were ‘I love you’.

She said: “I took John’s life because it is something we had decided, to end his suffering. It was out of love and devotion to him. John woke up and said ‘Now is the time’. I agreed and strangled him.”

Judge Richard Foster told her: “All the mitigating factors don’t retract from the evil of what you have done. You took away a man’s life prematurely.

“What you did in particular was deprive your daughter of the opportunity to say goodbye to him and for him to say goodbye to her.”

Mrs Sampford was returned to Peterborough mixed prison, where she has been remanded in custody for the past seven months.

> For court story see www.miltonkeynes.co.uk