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Exeter man poisoned his disabled wife with morphine overdose to "get some peace and quiet"

By RichardBirch  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

Stephen Hirst who was jailed at Exeter Crown Court for poisoning his wife

Stephen Hirst who was jailed at Exeter Crown Court for poisoning his wife

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A HUSBAND gave his wife six times her proper dose of morphine to "shut her up", a court has heard.

Stephen Hirst, 53, was jailed after pleading guilty to administering a poison with intent to cause his wife, Catherine, injury.

Exeter Crown Court heard that Hirst was a carer for his wife who is a double amputee. He substituted her medication for identical looking tablets that contained a 60mg dose of morphine rather than her usual 10.

He put her to sleep for a day and later told police he wanted to get some relief from months of quarrelling and bickering which had wrecked their marriage.

His 42-year-old wife lost both legs in a failed suicide attempt and needed to take daily doses of morphine to cope with the pain.

Hirst was arrested after his wife awoke from the stupor and he told her what he had done. She called NHS Direct for advice and they called paramedics and the police. The couple are now getting divorced.

Hirst, of Hatherleigh Road, Exeter, also admitted four charges of possessing or making indecent images of children.

He was jailed for 13 months at Exeter Crown Court where Judge Phillip Wassall told him: "You deliberately administered a toxic substance which is a class A drug and that is an aggravating feature.

"You gave her six times the proper dose but the background is that she had been prescribed that amount at an earlier date. It is accepted there was no intention to kill her or inflict really serious harm.

"We are dealing with the administration of a toxic substance which carried a risk. You used it simply to shut her up so you could have some peace and quiet, so it is a serious offence."

David Bowen, prosecuting, said Hirst had been married to Catherine for about five years and he was her full time carer, helping her cope with the effects of losing both legs.

He said: "She woke up on September 30 and took her tablets which she thought were two 10 mg doses of morphine sulphate.

"The defendant had substituted the 10 mg tablets for 60 mg ones, so she took a dose of 120 mg instead of the intended 20 mg. She started to feel unwell.

"She challenged her husband about the over dosage and he admitted what he had done but could not give her a reason.

"She was so unwell she phoned NHS Direct and they called the police. He was asked if he had tried to kill her and said no and said she had been in a lot of pain.

"He admitted what he had done to police and said he required respite from his caring duties. The victim suffered no long term effects."

Mr Bowen said a total of 139 images of naked children which rated at the lowest levels of child pornography were found on his laptop.

David Evans, defending, said Hirst was struggling to cope with his duties as carer and gave her the drugs to give himself a break from their constant arguments.

He said: "She had in the preceding months withdrawn from him emotionally, conversationally and sexually. There were many arguments between them which could be very wearing for both of them.

"Utterly foolishly, on the Saturday night he changed her medication and gave her the higher dose hoping to put her to sleep for longer than usual and some respite. He did not think it through very clearly.

"She spent most of the following day sleeping and the following day rang NHS Direct to ask if it was safe to take her usual dose. They called paramedics and the police.

"He apologised to her and admitted what he had done. He was aware he had done wrong. It has led to the end of his marriage. The divorce is proceeding and he is living with his 87-year-old mother in Leeds."

 

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