A pensioner who cut his wife’s throat in a failed suicide pact has avoided jail for manslaughter after a judge said he “acted out of love”.
Graham Mansfield, 73, said he killed cancer-stricken Dyanne Mansfield, 71, after she asked him to take her life “when things get bad for me”.
The retired airport baggage handler told Manchester Crown Crown they were the “saddest words he had ever heard” but agreed to his wife’s request as long as he could kill himself too.
A jury of 10 men and two women took 90 minutes to find Mansfield not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
Sentencing Mansfield, Mr Justice Goose today said: “The circumstances of this case are a tragedy for you and are exceptional in the experiences of this court.
“You were under immense emotional pressure.
“I am entirely satisfied that you acted out of love for your wife.”
On the morning of March 24 last year, Mansfield was found lying in a pool of blood at the couple’s home in Hale, Greater Manchester, while the body of Mrs Mansfield was slumped in a chair at the bottom of their garden.
Police and paramedics attended the semi-detached property in Canterbury Road after Mansfield dialled 999 and told the operator he had killed his wife of 40 years at 9pm the previous day before trying to kill himself.
Mrs Mansfield had bled heavily from a 6.3in (16cm) “gaping incised wound” and her windpipe had been severed.
Three knives and a lump hammer were found near her body.
Also discovered nearby were two bricks on top of a plastic wallet containing a note written by the defendant for the police.
“We have decided to take our own lives”, it said, giving instructions on where to find his house keys and how to contact his sister, the court heard.
Another note written by Mansfield, addressed to his family, was found in an envelope in the house.
It read: “We are sorry to burden you with this but there is no other way. We made a pact that when it got too bad for Dyanne we would end it.
“I couldn’t bear to live without Dyanne and as the months progressed and as things got worse, it only reinforced our decision that the time has arrived. We hope you all understand.
“Don’t get too upset. We have had a wonderful and happy life together.”
Neither note was signed by Mrs Mansfield, the court heard.
Mansfield previously said he killed his wife in an “act of love”.
In a victim personal statement read out to the court, Mrs Mansfield’s brother Peter Higson said: “I miss my sister terribly. Her death did not come as a shock to me because I knew she was very ill and in great pain.
“However, the manner of her death did come as a shock.
“Having said that I can understand the predicament that Graham found himself in. I found myself in a similar situation when my own wife died of cancer.
“I don’t hold any malice against Graham and will continue to value his friendship in future.
“If Graham is sentenced to an immediate term of imprisonment, I would be very unhappy. I believe Graham has suffered more than enough and he will never get over this ordeal.”
In arguing against an immediate custodial term, Richard Orme, defending, said: “The position is that over the last two years since the terminal diagnosis of Dyanne Mansfield in 2020, Graham Mansfield has experienced a living hell.
“He is fearful of being locked up in a cramped cell because he says the one thing that has been giving him peace and solace since the diagnosis has been his garden. “He has also been taking regular walks in the countryside.”
Mansfield was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and later underwent surgery for wounds to his neck and both wrists.
Police went on to speak to the couple’s family, friends and neighbours, who spoke favourably about the defendant and his “unswerving devotion” to his wife.
Some even expressed no surprise at the suggestion that he had killed her as part of a suicide pact, jurors heard.
Mansfield, who had been on bail, had denied murder. He also pleaded not guilty to an alternative count of manslaughter on the grounds that his actions were “undertaken through duress of circumstances”.
Summing up the case, the judge told the jury that if Mansfield was to be cleared of murder they would have to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that there was a suicide pact and he made a genuine attempt to kill himself.
He added that they may think his intentions were motivated by compassion for his wife, who was in pain, but acting through duress of circumstances did not make it lawful “however sympathetic you may feel about it”.
The judge said it was not the Crown’s case that there was no suicide pact but instead it was to ask the jury to consider all the evidence and ask whether it had been proved.