David Hunter recalls his time in prison awaiting trial for killing his terminally ill wife

David Hunter has vowed to stay in Cyprus and rent a place near his wife Janice’s grave “so I can visit her everyday” despite the island no longer being the paradise he once knew.

Describing some of the hellish conditions he endured during custody, he said that other inmates in his initial padded cell in a psychiatric hospital were severely mentally ill.

“One was jabbering, shouting and laughing all day and night in Greek. He was talking on an imaginary mobile phone and I only got to sleep when I grabbed the make-believe ‘phone’ and pretended to take the batteries out.

“One night a big, fat lad was lying naked on my bed. I was terrified. He wouldn’t get off. Then I realised he had fouled my bed. I shouted for the guard – but I had to clean up the mess, put on the new bedding. I was terrified the whole time,” he told the Daily Mail.

The 76-year-old former miner was released from custody late last month after a drawn-out, stop-and-start court case ended in a two-year prison sentence on the count of manslaughter, for the mercy killing of his terminally ill wife in December 2021. His 19 months in prison counted as time served for his prison sentence and Hunter was released.

The couple had retired to the island in 2001.

After he killed his wife, Hunter then attempted suicide and was initially sent to the state psychiatric hospital in Nicosia.

Speaking to the Daily Mail after being released from custody, he explained that just hours after being found after the failed suicide attempt in their Paphos house he was then shackled in a hospital ward under constant police supervision.

Hunter explained how he suffers from recurrent nightmares: flashbacks to the day he took Janice’s life. He was given anti-depressants and sleeping tablets to counter the night horrors.

His wife, Janice had been suffering from MDS – a form of blood cancer. She was 74 when David suffocated her to death by covering her mouth and nose. He has always maintained that she begged him to take her life to relieve her of the suffering that came with her disease.

Hunter remained unwavering throughout the trial, saying he regretted what he had to do but did it only because she incessantly begged him.

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Janice and David on their wedding day

“Death changed her face so quickly it frightened me,” he said. “She had the most beautiful smile. I used to say she could have made a fortune advertising toothpaste. But when she died she went grey. Her jaw was twisted. That is the face that comes to me in nightmares.”

No longer suicidal, he was then discharged to the Nicosia central prison, to a holding cell, then into a quarantine area. “Sometimes there were three men in a two-bed room and one of us had to sleep on the floor.

“A Syrian lad gave up his bottom bunk for me. Ninety-nine per cent of prisoners showed me respect and kindness.”

By January 5,2022 he had been moved to a permanent cell – a room 5.5 metres by 12 which he shared with 11 men, among them murderers, drug addicts and thieves.

He added: “The only things you were given in prison were toilet paper and food. Everything else you had to buy: toothbrush, tea, any medication you needed. All this came from my savings because the UK government stopped paying my pension when I went to prison. I’d worked for over 40 years in the coal mine – from the age of 15 to 55 – and my pension was stopped.”

He continued: “Boredom was the worst thing: I was bored of being bored. I asked for books and it took seven weeks to get any. They arrived four at a time and once I’d read them, it was six weeks before I got more.”

But Hunter’s suffering was compounded by not being allowed to attend his wife’s funeral.

“They told me about her funeral but they did not offer to let me go. They would not even let me watch from a distance, see the casket. I was so mad I nearly lost my mind when they buried her.”

But not all his time in custody was as Sisyphean, with Hunter recalling there was brief respite from the bleakness.

It was, in part, mitigated by his cellmates’ kindness.

“They always called me Mr Dave. I’d say, ‘Just call me David’ but they wouldn’t. It was their way of showing respect.

“No one was threatening. I wasn’t frightened. I made friends with one lad from Southampton who was in for a minor offence. When he was released I missed him,” he told the Daily Mail.

Despite those brief breaks, the reality of the situation loomed large over Hunter – with the thought that he may even spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“At one point I did. The prosecution seemed to twist everything I said. And then I’d build myself up to go to court and they’d cancel,” he explained.

Even up until the final moment, just before his sentence was announced, Hunter thought he would get about five years in prison.

“I was prepared for it, I prepared my mind for it, I always prepared for the worst,” he told Good Morning Britain.

He then explained, however, his relief – and plans.

“I couldn’t be more pleased – I’m living where I wanted to be – 200 metres from my wife’s grave,” he added.

But his next steps are to return to the UK to catch up with his family who supported him throughout the tragic ordeal.

“I thought at one point I’d go back to England to live but it was a burden on me. So I came to the conclusion I’d stay in Cyprus and find a place to rent near Janice’s grave so I can visit every day. I want to be near her. I can’t ever leave her… I’ve made my mind up about that,” he told the Daily Mail.