Elderly couple from Wyton made plans for a ‘dignified death’ - inquest told

The inquest was heard at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon.

The inquest was heard at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon. - Credit: Archant

A devoted elderly couple who were found dead at their home in Wyton had made a suicide pact, an inquest has heard.

Ralph and Visse Slayter had openly discussed euthanasia with family members and voiced their intention to die at a time of their own choosing, rather than be a burden once their health failed.

The inquest at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon, on Thursday, was told the bodies of Ralph, aged 79, and Visse, aged 78, were discovered on the evening of January 9, by Mr Slayter’s sister who lived nearby. She raised concerns when she noticed the curtains had been closed all day.

Mr Slayter, who had studied euthanasia as part of his degree, was suffering with the onset of Parkinson’s disease and had glaucoma, which was affecting his sight. He was found hanged in the hallway of the house in Loxley Green.

Mrs Slayter was discovered on a bed upstairs and items found in the room and the post mortem examination showed she had died as a result of asphyxiation from a plastic bag which had been filled with a gas.

The post mortem also showed she had a small amount of alcohol in her system, but a potentially fatal dose of morphine, which had been prescribed to her for pain relief.

The inquest heard Mrs Slayter suffered with chronic pain and had undergone five hip operations and reconstructive surgery after a car accident some 30 years earlier, which left her with a limp.

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The inquest heard the couple were methodical in their approach to killing themselves and had made a living will; put ‘do not resuscitate’ orders in place and left several notes explaining the reasons behind their intended actions. They had also left clear instructions and details for their financial arrangements.

The personal notes talked of their fears for “declining health” and “poor NHS treatment” and Mr Slayter made it clear that he had “assisted his wife to die”. He also said his wife thanked him and wrote he was going to “follow shortly”.

Simon Milburn, assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, recorded a verdict of suicide on Mr and Mrs Slayter and said: “It is clear from the medical evidence that Mrs Slayter was in a significant amount of pain and she found that pain intolerable. I believe the notes and the medical evidence show there was a clear and settled intention to end their lives. To what extent Mr Slayter assisted his wife is unclear.”

Mr Milburn said it was obvious that despite a loving family and all the good things in their lives “their wish to die a dignified death was stronger than all of these things”.