‘Devoted’ St Neots couple agreed to die in suicide pact - inquest hears

Bren and Jean Constant

Bren and Jean Constant - Credit: Archant

An inquest has heard that an elderly man who survived a suicide pact told police how he helped his wife to end her life after they agreed they did not want to become a burden to anyone.

Poppyfields, Eynesbury,

Poppyfields, Eynesbury, - Credit: Archant

An inquest has heard that an elderly man who survived a suicide pact told police how he helped his wife to end her life after they had agreed they did not want to become a burden to anyone.

An inquest into the death of Jean Constant, 86, was told how her husband Brendan Constant, who was later charged with her murder, carried out research into suicide as the couple, who had been married for 61 years, had planned to die together if life became “unbearable”.

Mrs Constant had recently suffered a stroke and had been prescribed anti-depressants after making remarks about wanting to die.

Mr Constant admitted later in police interview that he “messed up” killing himself and was still breathing when police officers entered their home, but insisted his wife was a “willing participant” in the pact. The 87-year-old died on April 28, 2017, after a fall and before court proceedings could take place.

The inquest was heard at Huntingdon Town Hall.

The inquest was heard at Huntingdon Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

The inquest, at Huntingdon Town Hall, on Wednesday (November 15), heard that Mrs Constant was found dead just after 5pm on August 22, 2016, at the couple’s flat at the Poppyfields assisted living complex in Chapman Way, St Neots. Care staff had gone to the flat to assist Mrs Constant with personal care and found a hand-written note taped to the door, which read “do not enter, call the police”.

Police found Mrs Constant sitting in her wheelchair with a plastic bag over her head, which had been filled with a gas.

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Attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead at 6.11pm. Mr Constant was sitting in an armchair a few feet away and also had a plastic bag over his head, but he survived.

He admitted in police interview that he helped his wife to die and it was decided that she would go first as she was unlikely to be able to do things herself as the stroke had left her struggling with movement on her left side.

Mr Constant was arrested at 6.52pm that evening and charged on suspicion of his wife’s murder while he was still receiving treatment at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

In his police interview he said: “I loved my wife very much. She made it clear that she no longer wished to go on and I assisted her to die. When I was sure she had passed, I planned to take my own life, but the equipment failed. I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to live without Jean. We just wanted to die with dignity. She was a talented, creative and intelligent woman, my equal in every way.”

The inquest heard evidence from the couple’s son, Simon, who described his parents as private people who did not always share information about their health issues.

“It was very clear that they were devoted to one another,” said Mr Constant.

“They were fiercely private people and all decisions were well thought out and made jointly.”

Mr Simon Constant said his parents had never discussed euthanasia with any family members.

Mrs Constant was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital on July 13, 2016, after suffering a stroke. A few days later she was transferred to the Brookfields Hospital, in Cambridge, to recover and receive rehabilitation.

She repeatedly told nursing and physiotherapy staff that she “wanted to go” and didn’t want to “be any trouble to anyone”. She even asked one member of staff for tablets to help her to die and told another “I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up”.

Mrs Constant was prescribed anti-depressants and was sent home on August 19 with a care package that involved her husband providing some of her care.

The inquest heard that Mrs Constant had an extensive medical history, including falls, heart disease and latterly some memory impairment. The post mortem examination showed some bruising on her left wrist and shins, lung congestion and an enlarged heart. There was also evidence of significant natural heart disease which made her vulnerable to sudden death.

Dr Nat Cary, pathologist, said Mrs Constant suffered a rapid death over a few minutes due to plastic bag asphyxiation. No evidence of assault or restraint was evident.

He concluded that Mrs Constant died from asphyxiation and hypoxic, ischemic heart disease. He said there was significant cardiac disease which could have caused her death at any time.

The hearing was adjourned to a later date to wait for the results of toxicology tests.