One-armed pensioner who shot dead dementia suffering wife is to serve six years for her manslaughter
A one-armed pensioner who shot his wife dead after claiming she told him she’d “had enough” of dementia has been sent to a psychiatric hospital for six years.
Ronald King, 87, admitted manslaughter five days into his murder trial last month after it emerged he too was suffering from mixed vascular dementia.
He was on trial for murdering his wife Rita, 81, after he shot her through the right eye with an antique Second World War revolver on December 28 last year.
But his plea of manslaughter by diminished responsibility was accepted last month after doctors said he too haddementia.
Judge Charles Gratwicke today (wed) handed him a six-year prison sentence to be served in a psychiatric hospital because of his medical condition.
He said: “This was without doubt a carefully planned killing.
“You filed down the nose of the bullets. You put the wrong bullet in the but you filed it own whilst at home in order to ensure that you wife died.
“You left the care home, collecting the gun and ammunition from your own home.
“You returned ensuring that the gun and ammunition returned with you in the premises.
“You understood what you were doing.”
He added: “The court cannot loose sight of the fact that in planning to kill yourself (after shooting your wife) you also intended to kill your sister who was also a resident at the time.
“This was not, in my judgement, a mercy killing.”
He sentenced King to six years for manslaughter, five years for possession of a firearm and 12 months for possession of ammunition.
All three will run concurrently.
He added: “When you shot her with the revolver you brought from home the bullet entered her head through her right eye and she died instantly.
“This was from every angle a tragedy.
“You told the police that you had shot her to prevent her suffering any more and that she had had enough and you were dying anyway.
“As you well know there is no evidence that she was in pain or suffering anymore than anyone else who has subcomed to dementia.
“This though was not a mercy killing. It is clear that it occurred at a time when the experts agree that you were suffering from paraphrenia and dementia.”
He added: “A sentence of imprisonment (is appropriate). In mitigation I have to bear in mind that you were a devoted husband to Rita King.
“That you strived to look after her until her dementia became too much.
“That there was no malice in your killing of her.
“I bear in mind your previous good character. I bear in mind your frank admissions right from the start that you killed her.”
Professor Graeme Yorston is a speciality consultant of adult and old age forensic psychiatrist and diagnosed King with dementia.
He said: “The mental disorder of this nature and degree make it appropriate for him to be in hospital for treatment.”
He said his condition was treatable and added: “In Mr King‘s case it is particularly the frontal lobe of his brain that was affected and it is the frontal lobes that are responsible for making judgements.”
He said that these delusions and misjudgements led him to the conclusion that the only option he had was to “shoot his wife, shoot himself and his sister”.
He said a bed is available for him at St Andrews secure psychiatric hospital in Northampton.
Defending King, Patrick Upwood QC, also claimed that in the circumstances the defendant deserved to go to a hospital rather than prison.
Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, did not disagree with this conclusion.
King, who stood up when being sentenced but had been sitting in a wheelchair in the dock, did not show any emotion.
During the trial last month Chelmsford crown court heard that before pulling the trigger King showed his wife of 51 years a picture of their wedding day.
He then kissed his wife and said “we will always be together” before blasting her with the 1934 Enfield revolver with modified dum-dum bullets.
He said: “She shouted ‘don’t leave me’, and I said ‘I could never leave you’. That’s when I picked the gun up, and said ‘we will always be together’.”
He then shot his wheelchair-bound wife in the eye at point blank range in front of two other residents.
He then tried to turn the gun on himself at the De La Mer House in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex.
Care home staff heard him muttering “I can’t pull the trigger”.
He then asked them for help, telling them: “I have just shot my wife. She has suffered a lot. I’m dying anyway”.
He was eventually persuaded to hand it over to care home staff, who called the police and arrested King.
The jury heard he wanted to spend a week over Christmas with his wife and then take her back home.
Before her death the ‘devoted couple’ were separated when the Rita was diagnosed with dementia and moved to the home in March 2015.
The defendant, who was born with his left arm missing below the elbow, also has a hearing aid and cataracts.
If King recovers enough before the end of his sentence he will serve the remainder of his sentence in jail.