A 72-year-old woman avoided a jail sentence for what she claimed was an assisted suicide of her 70-year-old husband, who had been accused of sexually abusing children.
Susanne Wilson was originally charged with the murder of her husband of 50 years, Henry Wilson, at their home in Ayr, a seaside resort town on the west coast of Scotland, according to the BBC. She later admitted to the lesser charge of culpable homicide, roughly equivalent to involuntary manslaughter in U.S. law.
The BBC reports that Judge (Lady) Rita Rae of the Dumbarton High Court declined to issue jail time to Wilson during her sentencing hearing Thursday, citing the mental distress of the defendant during her years as primary caregiver of her housebound husband.
Former Troon councillor Susanne Wilson avoids jail after killing husband amid sex abuse allegationshttps://t.co/HZSaVBvGTU
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The judge also referenced the fact that Henry Wilson had previously attempted suicide. She told Susanne Wilson that she believed her decision-making on the day of Henry’s death was affected by the fact that she had been “confronted with distressing information about the husband you had lived with and loved for 50 years”.
Wilson, a retired nurse, was a former Labor party councilor (local government representative) of the nearby town of Troon. She and her husband, a retired shop manager, had three children. Their eldest son Jonathan died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 31.
Henry Wilson suffered from chronic heart disease and relied on his wife’s care toward the end of his life. According to the BBC report, in September 2015 Susanne Wilson first learned of the allegations that her husband had sexually abused children.
On September 3, 2016, Henry Wilson asked his wife to contact one of his accusers, and then had a phone conversation with the individual.
BBC reports that after the phone call ended, his wife became what was described to the court as “very angry” and struck her husband with a plastic jug, causing him to bleed.
Henry Wilson then spoke of trying to end his life with drugs. His wife left his prescribed medication on the counter, but did not administer the drugs to her husband. She then left the home to visit a neighbor. The Scottish Daily Mail reports that Wilson was “in tears” and revealed the allegations against her husband to the neighbor.
Upon her return home, Susanne Wilson found her husband struggling to breathe after taking some of the medication. He reportedly said “help me” to his wife as his breathing worsened, which she said she interpreted as a request for her to help him end his life.
She then reportedly smothered him by placing a cushion over his face until he died.
Prosecutor Bill McVicar recounted in an earlier court appearance that Wilson described “feeling only compassion for (her husband) and thinking this had to stop.” She then called emergency services to “report what she had done.”
In reaching her decision Thursday, Judge Rae told the defendant:
“There is no suggestion whatsoever that you are a risk to the public, I have come to the view therefore that punishment is not appropriate and having reached that conclusion I consider a community payback order is not justified nor is it required.”
Sentencing was deferred until January for good behavior and for Wilson to continue receiving psychiatric care.