Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Man, 94, 'killed himself beside his wife and son' at home

Courtenay Place in Lymington Image copyright Google
Image caption Ralph Snell took a lethal dose of sleeping pills and morphine at his home in Courtenay Place, Lymington

A 94-year-old man suffering "unbearable pain" was supported in killing himself by his wife and son, who were later arrested, an inquest heard.

Ralph Snell, who suffered from osteoporosis, took a lethal dose of sleeping pills and morphine at his home in Lymington, Hampshire, on 28 January.

Winchester Coroner's Court was told Molly Snell, 90, and Rick Snell, 69, were held in a police cell overnight but were not prosecuted.

The coroner ruled the death as suicide.

Image caption Rick Snell arrived at the inquest with his partner Alison Henry

Mr Snell, from South Petherton, Somerset, said his father had been active until two years before his death, when he became "fairly determined not to carry on living".

He said his father had twice tried to take his own life previously.

On the day he died, Ralph Snell asked his GP, Dr Ian Murray, to help him to die, the inquest heard.

"I got the impression it was tongue-in-cheek," the GP said in a statement. "I said it was unethical and illegal. I offered to increase his pain medication."

The pensioner collected a number of sleeping tablets as well as morphine, which he later took with chocolate cake, the hearing was told.

'Retain dignity'

Mr Snell said he had opened the morphine bottle and emptied the sleeping pills from a blister pack but did not administer the drugs.

His father died "peacefully" two hours later, it was heard.

Police arrested Mrs Snell, then aged 89, together with her son, on suspicion of intending to assist the suicide.

Det Con Kayleigh Rush said Mr Snell was not charged because it was not thought to be in the public interest and there was no realistic prospect of convicting his mother.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Snell said he was angry at his mother's treatment, adding "We don't have any respect for the current law [on assisted suicide]."

In a printed statement, he added: "It is very frustrating that old sick people, who need the support of their loved ones, and want to retain their dignity, and keep control of their own life and death, cannot easily do so without incriminating those closest to them."

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