Killer pensioner ‘likely to die in prison’

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A Milton Keynes pensioner who strangled her terminally-ill husband while they lay in bed may well die in prison after top judges threw out an appeal against her lengthy jail term.

Sheila Ann Sampford, 76, insisted that she killed her 83-year-old husband of five decades, John, 83, out of “mercy” because he had just six months to live.

She said he had asked her to end his life; however that account was rejected by a judge who said she “just snapped” under immense personal pressure.

Sampford, of Spoonley Wood, Bancroft Park, was jailed for life - with a minimum of nine years to serve behind bars - at Luton Crown Court in February, after she admitted murder.

Today, three senior judges at London’s Appeal Court rejected a sentence challenge by Sampford, saying her case had been conducted with “sensitivity and skill” and her minimum prison term was not excessive.

Mr Justice William Davis said Sampford suffered from ill-health and her husband had effectively acted as her carer for years before he was diagnosed with terminal leukaemia in June, 2013.

Despite being given less than 12 months to live, Mr Sampford was “up beat” and determined to enjoy the rest of his life.

When his life expectancy was cut to six months soon after, he remained “positive”, the judge said.

His wife, however, seemed stressed by her prospects for the future, frequently texting their daughter in distress and telling her during a meeting at the couple’s home that she “could not cope”.

Soon afterwards, Sampford murdered her husband, wrapping a bandage around his neck in the early hours of a July morning in 2013, and throttling him in bed.

Afterwards, she phoned 999 and told the operator she had killed her husband because “everything had got on top of her” and she had “just snapped”.

During an interview with police she submitted a prepared statement, claiming that the couple had been living “in poverty” and planned to end their lives together because they did not want to end up in a home.

The pensioner admitted murder on the basis that the killing had been an “act of mercy” - her husband having attempted suicide with an overdose of pills the day before he died.

“I have strangled him, my beloved husband, my rock, my support,” she said, describing him as “very low” before he asked her to end his life.

But her account was rejected by Judge Richard Foster who ruled that she had snapped “under immense personal pressure” connected to her health problems and her care requirements, in what he described as a “tragic case”.

John Price QC, for Sampford, argued on appeal that Judge Foster ought to have given more weight to her advanced age and shown greater leniency so as to prevent her dying behind bars.

But Mr Justice Davis, sitting with Lady Justice Rafferty and Judge Deborah Taylor, said: “This was a very difficult sentencing excercise.

“It was conducted with sensitivity and skill by Judge Foster.

“We cannot find any error in principle or that the minimum term imposed was manifestly excessive and therefore this application is refused.”