In an unexpected turn of events, the charges faced by the 74-year-old Briton accused of the murder of his terminally ill wife in Tremithousa last December remained unchanged despite hopes it would be mitigated to manslaughter, as his trial continued on Tuesday.
After the Paphos court adjourned last week, it appeared that the two sides had been in agreement over the facts of the case, which would allow the accused, David Hunter, to change his answer from non-admission to murder, on the condition that he be charged with manslaughter.
However, in a last-minute decision, the attorney-general decided to reject the change.
“I’m just shocked and stunned,” Hunter’s daughter Lesley told the Daily Mail. “We are devastated and just don’t know how this has happened.”
In the latest proceedings, the prosecution raised an issue with Hunter’s later claim that his wife herself had asked him to relieve her of her pain.
According to the case history, in December 2021, Hunter caused the death of his wife Janice, who was in the final stages of cancer, because he could not bear to watch her suffer.
In his statement to the police and to his brother after the crime, Hunter had claimed that what he did was also his wife’s will, but this was not accepted by the prosecution.
Prosecution attorney Andreas Hadjikyrou cast doubt on whether the killing had been agreed upon, saying that while Hunter may have killed his wife out of pity, that does not mean she had consented to it.
The justification was that there was no physical or verbal proof of the agreement, either by way of a note or through conversations with her daughter.
As pointed out in court, accepting this could set a precedent for future crimes on trial.
“It is unclear whether this agreement really took place,” he said, accusing Hunter’s lawyers of unethical behaviour by “agreeing to one thing one day, and saying another thing before the court”.
Hunter’s defence attorneys Nicoletta Charalambidou and Ritsa Pekri expressed disappointment at this development, saying the prosecution’s stance was affecting the confidence of the defence by accepting part of the accused’s admission and rejecting the rest.
Charalambidou told the Cyprus Mail that the defence had hoped the charge would be mitigated but the trial now has to go on as a murder trial.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, the court heard from a number of witnesses including Tremithousa mayor Christofis Petrou, who was in regular contact with the couple and was their landlord.
He said that the couple were well known and trusted in the community, and that Janice’s pain worsened along with her condition. He also pointed out that Hunter had never complained about his wife.
The matter has now been adjourned for a legal ruling on December 22, where the court will set dates for the rest of the proceedings. The trial has now been postponed seven times, while Hunter remains in custody.
Michael Polak of Justice Abroad said the defence was disappointed by the latest development.
“It is clear that the prosecution in this case is attempting to ensure that Mr Hunter receives the highest possible sentence and to prevent mitigating factors, which arise from the evidence in the case, from being put before the court,” he said in a written statement.
“We entered into dialogue with the prosecution in good faith and unfortunately it appears that the case against Mr Hunter is being treated like a game by the Cypriot authorities.”
“Getting justice in Cyprus is always difficult as we have experienced in the past in cases of foreign nationals who have appeared here, however we will continue to fight for David, who continues to suffer, to ensure he gets the best possible result in this very sad case”.