Man killed wife in ‘act of mercy’

Stockport Express - - Front Page - DA­MON WILKIN­SON

IT was the tragic prom­ise Lawrence Franks kept un­til the very end. An ‘ut­terly de­voted’ hus­band, he gave his de­men­tia-stricken wife Pa­tri­cia his word she would never go in a care home.

But as Mrs Franks’ con­di­tion de­te­ri­o­rated, the 84-year-old found it al­most im­pos­si­ble to cope.

She was prac­ti­cally im­mo­bile and in­con­ti­nent. Trag­i­cally, 86-year-old Mrs Franks no longer recog­nised her beloved hus­band.

On Sun­day, July 7, Mr Franks reached break­ing point.

A few days ear­lier he had come out of hos­pi­tal af­ter a her­nia op­er­a­tion and, his own health ail­ing, could no longer see a way of keep­ing his prom­ise.

At the cou­ple’s home on Frances Av­enue, Gat­ley, which they had shared for 58 years, the for­mer bus driver picked up a scaf­fold­ing pole and hit his wife on the back of her neck a num­ber of times.

Be­liev­ing the at­tack had not proved fa­tal, he then smoth­ered her with a pil­low.

It was, Man­ches­ter Crown Court heard, the ac­tions of a man who ‘gen­uinely be­lieved’ he was per­form­ing an ‘act of mercy.’

On Fri­day, Mr Franks was spared jail af­ter plead­ing guilty to man­slaugh­ter with di­min­ished re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Af­ter what Judge David Stock­dale de­scribed as an ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary’ and ‘heartrend­ing’ case, Mr Franks was given a two-year prison sen­tence, sus­pended for two years.

Pass­ing sen­tence Judge Stock­dale said: “This is a most un­usual and sad case, many would say it’s heartrend­ing.

“You and your wife were hap­pily mar­ried for 62 years and were ut­terly de­voted to each other.

“Dur­ing her de­cline in health you cared for her, de­spite your own age, and looked af­ter her with­out out­side help. Your de­vo­tion to her was to­tal and un­con­di­tional.

“She was par­tic­u­larly anx­ious not to be placed in a care home and said so re­peat­edly, par­tic­u­larly as her health de­te­ri­o­rated.

“But the bur­den of look­ing af­ter her be­came im­pos­si­ble for you.

“You showed your wife noth­ing but love and af­fec­tion and for the last 10 years tended to her ev­ery need. Your de­vo­tion was quite ex­cep­tional. There is no sen­tence I can pass that will turn back the clock or rec­om­pense for the loss of Pa­tri­cia Franks’ life.

“In my judge­ment this is an ex­cep­tional case.”

Ear­lier, the court had heard how Mrs Franks, a re­tired cler­i­cal worker at Al­trin­cham Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, had been di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia around 10 years ago.

Ini­tially the cou­ple, who had no chil­dren, were de­ter­mined to carry on as nor­mal.

They con­tin­ued to hol­i­day in their tour­ing car­a­van, and when that proved too dif­fi­cult bought a static car­a­van.

Even­tu­ally, how­ever, Mrs Franks’ de­men­tia proved too much of a bur­den for her hus­band to bear alone.

Mr Franks, who would take his wife to the hair­dressers ev­ery week, was, the court heard, a ‘very proud and in­de­pen­dent per­son who was re­luc­tant to ask for help.’

He had made sev­eral adap­ta­tions to their home, to al­low her to live more com­fort­ably, and at the time of her death more work was be­ing done on the house.

He had turned down sev­eral of­fers of sup­port from so­cial ser­vices and re­jected the pleas of rel­a­tives to place his wife in a care home.

But Vanessa Thom­son, de­fend­ing, dis­puted the idea Mr Franks was too proud to seek as­sis­tance.

She said: “This was not about pride, this was a man who was re­spect­ing his wife’s wishes and strug­gling on as an ag­ing carer.”

Two court-ap­pointed psy­chi­a­trists di­ag­nosed Mr Franks as suf­fer­ing from an ‘ad­just­ment dis­or­der’ brought on by the stress of car­ing for his wife at the time of her death. It meant, the court heard, his ‘judge­ment to make ra­tio­nal de­ci­sions was sub­stan­tially im­paired.’

But through­out it all Mr Franks re­tained the sup­port of rel­a­tives, friends and neigh­bours, a num­ber of whom were in court.

In a vic­tim im­pact state­ment Mrs Franks’ nephew Sa­muel White­side said the fam­ily bore ‘no mal­ice’ to­wards Mr Franks and ‘wished he had sought help from pro­fes­sion­als.’

“We be­lieve as a fam­ily that Lawrence Franks did what he did be­cause he couldn’t bear see­ing her as she was,” he added.

●●Lawrence Franks pic­tured leav­ing court

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