Sheila Sampford: Husband’s final words as she strangled him were, ‘I love you’

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A woman told a court how she killed her husband, telling the judge it was an act of mercy because he was dying of leukaemia.

Sheila Sampford, 75, said her husband John’s final words to her as she strangled him were: “I love you.”

The court heard he had just months to live.

As he lay in bed, the wife said she put a bandage around his neck and pillows over his head.

She went on “I woke up in the early hours of the night and we’d been talking about ways of taking his life. He just wanted to be released. It was a horrifying experience.

“It was the worst thing I had done - taking the life of someone you love and adore.”

Under cross examination she said: “I took John’s life because it is something we had decided, to end his suffering. It was through love and devotion. It was not selfish, it was out of love and devotion to him and anything to put him out of suffering.

“John woke up and said ‘Now is the time.’ I agreed and strangled him.”

Crying, she said: “My husband did not struggle. His final words were ‘I love you’. I wake up and hear those words. He laid there and was relieved.

“There was no sign of a struggle he remained very peaceful and quiet.”

The grey haired pensioner, who walks with a stick, gave her account at Luton crown court still wearing her wedding ring.

She was appearing before Judge Richard Foster, who must decide if the death of the 83 year old retired coach painter was a mercy killing.

The mother of one, who is being held in Peterborough jail, admitted the murder at an earlier hearing and can expect to receive a life sentence.

But if the judge rules it was a mercy killing, she can expect a low minimum sentence before she can apply for parole.

Prosecutor Neil Moore said Mr Sampford, who was 83, was found dead at the couple’s modern terraced home in Spoonley Wood, Bancroft Park, Milton Keynes on July 5 last year.

Mr Moore said: “At 6.26 in the morning the defendant dialled 999 and spoke to the operator for 10 minutes. The call begins: ‘I just murdered my husband!’ “

She went on: “I just strangled him. Well he has got acute leukaemia and two to three months to live. I am his carer. He was my carer.

“I just don’t know what I did. Oh please help me. “I have had two major operations. I just don’t know if I am coming or going. I can’t think straight.

“It has all got too much. I said to John ‘I am going to strangle you’ and he said ‘yes please’. Those were his words.

While Mrs Sampford was speaking to the operator the police arrived at the house. She opened the door in her dressing gown and the officers found her husband upstairs lying on the bed.

“Two pillows were on top of each other over his head. His body was warm. The officers saw a bandage tied around his neck and blood on his face. They tried chest compression. Paramedics arrived and continued the resuscitation, but it was too late and at 7.12 death was confirmed,” said the prosecutor

Mrs Sampford was arrested for murder. In the custody suite at the police station she said: “I just snapped. I had to do it. It was a cry for help.”

In her cell she told the watch officer: “I am guilty. I have nothing to hide.”

Mr Moore said that the judge would have to decide if Mr Sampford wanted to die as a result of his leukaemia, if he had asked the defendant to kill him and if she was motivated by compassion in an act to mercy to end his suffering.

He said the couple had married in September 1963 and had a daughter Caroline Vant who was born in 1968. The daughter had described her mother as the dominant partner in the relationship. The mother had a long-standing problem with a foot and had undergone a number of operations. On June 6 last year Mr Sampford had been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Mr Sampford took the news that he had only three to 12 months to live “extremely well.” Later that month the prognosis worsened and he was told he had three to six months to live even if he had treatment. He continued to be positive and thanked the consultant, said the prosecutor

His wife was anxious about their dog and spoke to a rescue centre saying she could no longer cope with it. The day before she killed her husband she rang her daughter and said: “Can you come over, Dad’s ill. I am ill. I can’t cope.” When her daughter arrived she said: “I can’t cope. Your dad keeps going into the garage and standing there.”

Hearing continues.