End trauma of mercy killing probes, pleads ex-police chief. Source: Daily Express

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End trauma of mercy killing probes, pleads ex-police chief

LENGTHY investigations into mercy killings and suicide pacts are causing unnecessary trauma for families and detectives, a former police boss has warned.

By Hanna Geissler – Daily Express Health Editor

22:01, Fri, Jul 22, 2022

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The issue has been in the spotlight this week

The issue has been in the spotlight this week (Image: Getty)

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  • Martyn Underhill, an ex-detective chief inspector, said officers should not “treat it like a murder inquiry” when a death is clearly the result of a compassionate act. The issue has been in the spotlight this week after a pensioner who killed his wife in a failed suicide pact was spared prison.

A court heard Graham Mansfield, 73, cut his cancer-stricken wife Dyanne’s throat in March 2021, after she asked him to end her life “when things get bad for me”.

He received a two-year suspended sentence after a Manchester jury cleared him of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter.

Speaking before the Mansfield court case, Mr Underhill, who was Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner from 2012 to 2021, said: “There are always two phone calls you don’t want to receive as a murder investigator. One is a baby death and the other is a mercy killing.

“A mercy killing is hugely traumatic for everybody, particularly the family involved, because they’re being demonised twice. They just lost their loved one and then suddenly they’re facing a police investigation.

“It’s demoralising because policing is really under pressure and you’re spending a considerable amount of time investigating a case that you know in your heart won’t be successfully prosecuted.

“I’ve had several police officers say to me, as I’ve said to myself, this is traumatic.

“We need to speak about the wellbeing of police officers as well.”

Mr Underhill, right, dealt with three suspected mercy killings or suicide pacts in his 20 years as a detective, including the mysterious death of Derek Taylor.

The 60-year-old’s body washed up on a West Sussex beach in 1998 after he reportedly walked into the sea following an occult ceremony.

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  • There was no evidence he had been forced, but a friend who was present was held in custody for two days.

Mr Underhill said: “That was a year-long inquiry. It took hundreds of police hours to investigate.

“We didn’t get past the CPS threshold. You look back at it now and think, is our law fit for purpose? I don’t think it is.” The ex-DCI supports calls for some terminally ill people to be given the option of a ­medically assisted death, also backed by the Daily Express’s Give Us Our Last Rights crusade.

But he said that until the law changes, clearer guidance is needed for police.

The Crown Prosecution Service recently held a consultation on new draft guidance which aims to clarify what must be taken into account when applying a public interest test.

Factors that make a prosecution less likely include, “if the victim had reached a voluntary, settled and informed decision to end their life” or “the suspect was wholly motivated by compassion”.

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