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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Tobi Thomas

Carer, 90, tried to stab seriously ill wife to death, court hears

Gold Lady Justice Statue on the top of the Old Bailey
An Old Bailey jury heard the couple had had a happy marriage that had become ‘mired by poor health’. Photograph: Anthony Brown/Alamy

A 90-year-old man tried to murder his seriously ill wife as she slept after he could “no longer cope” with caring for her, a court heard.

Edward Turpin is accused of attempting to stab his wife, Joan, to death at their home in Orpington, south-east London, in September last year. Joan, who was blind and needed a catheter, was attacked with a knife before Turpin turned the weapon on himself, the jury at the Old Bailey was told.

Turpin denies attempted murder and an alternative charge of wounding with intent.

The court heard how Turpin told a 999 operator he had tried to stab Joan Turpin and stabbed himself, and that they both wanted to die.

The prosecution told the jury a “back-and-forth” conversation between Turpin and the call handler followed, in which Turpin may have attempted to imply he and his wife were carrying out a “suicide pact”.

The prosecutor, Alistair Richardson, addressing the jury, said: “You may think the defendant was attempting to give the impression that he and his wife were participating in a suicide pact. As you will hear, that is a suggestion that Joan Turpin robustly rejects.

“Throughout the call, in the background, you can hear Joan Turpin crying out for help.”

In an audio recording of the call, played to the court, a voice could be heard saying “Joan, stop it”, and telling the operator he had tried to “stab myself to take myself out of it”.

Opening the trial, the prosecution said that Edward and Joan Turpin had been “happily married for years” before her health began to decline and she went blind. But instead of seeking help, the prosecution said the defendant lost patience with being his wife’s carer and “sought to kill her”.

Richardson added: “They had been married for many years. You will hear Joan Turpin explain that their marriage had been a happy one, and the defendant had been a good husband. It makes the case and events that you will consider all the more sad.”

Jurors were told neither society nor the law permitted people to “take matters into our own hands”, no matter how hard it had become to care for a spouse.

“There is no doubt that the case you are to try is a sad one – of a happy marriage that has become mired by poor health, and with the defendant no longer able to cope with caring for his wife,” Richardson said.

He added: “But what neither society, nor the law, permit, even in the heat of the moment, is for us to take matters into our own hands and seek to end someone else’s life. The answer to finding caring for our partner too much can never be to try to take their life.”

The trial continues.

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