A wife whose husband tried to kill her in her sleep after they lost their jobs and ran up £25,000 in debt said he had done it “from a place of love”.
Karen Sawyer, 61, was sleeping when “gentle giant” Andrew Sawyer, 69, came up to bed to cuddle her before he slashed her wrist and said: “I’ll stay with you until the end, and then I’ll do me.”
Mrs Sawyer, who has been married to her husband for 43 years, had lost the hair salon she ran due to COVID lockdowns, while he lost his job as an electrical sales consultant after being furloughed.
The father-of-two ran up debt “coming out of their ears”, so they attempted to end their lives and “free” them from mortgage payments, credit card bills and a debt management plan.
Having admitted a single charge of attempted murder, Sawyer was jailed for three years and ten months. However, the court heard they remain a loving couple, and Mrs Sawyer has always insisted she did not want to press charges.
Sentencing the grandfather, Judge Paul Dugdale told him: “It is not worth ending your life because you can’t afford the mortgage. Having each other is so much more important than having a house.
“At the end of the day, financial problems are that. It is money – it is not life and death. What you need in life is life and love. You can’t have love without life.
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“What you need, needed and still need – and will have in the future – is the love of someone sitting over there. You have all of your life to look forward to. It is not worth ending your life because you can’t afford the mortgage.”
Prosecuting, Kerry Maylin told Winchester Crown Court that the couple had been happily married for 43 years and lived in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
“The overall consensus from the family was that it had been a happy, mutually supportive marriage and provided a stable family home,” she said.
Sawyer had worked as an electrical sales consultant locally before being put on leave and eventually let go.
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One Sunday morning, Charlie Woods replaced home from church to find two police officers marking time at his door. First, the officers queried if he had any health difficulties. Then they told him both his parents were dead. His father had murdered his mother, firing six bullets down the bedroom door of their Tallahassee home. Then the 59-year-old man rolls the gun on himself.
Since 1988 Woods’ parents died, the homicide-suicide charge pair couples 55 and older in Florida has grown about tenfold, according to Donna Cohen, a professor of psychiatry and exploit sciences at the University of South Florida’s Department of Ageing and mental health.
Though statistics for the entire nation are unavailable, Cohen believes the Florida numbers represent the relaxation of the country. She gauges that nearly 20 older Americans die each week in homicide-suicides.
These are not couples who romantically choose oblivion together in the sunset of their years. Cohen has found that the typical homicide-suicide case requires a depressed, controlling husband who shoots his ill wife. “These are acts of misery and distress,” she says. “The wife does not want to die and is frequently shot in her sleep. If she was awake, there are usually signs that she tried to defend herself.”
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“Nothing is loving about killing another person,” attaches Woods, whose 53-year-old mother was not ill and did not desire to die.
It’s not clear why more and more older men — the killer are almost all men — are depressed sufficient to kill themselves and their wives. One reason may be isolation, says Patrick Arbore, Director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Avoidance at the Goldman Institute on Aging. He notes that more and more seniors live remotely from their friends and families.
In one learning of an area in Florida, Cohen established that two-thirds of the men who killed their wives and ego had visited their doctors within three weeks before accomplishing the deadly act. None, however, were being handled for depression.
But a doctor is unlikely to identify a condition like melancholy in a six-minute office visit, partly for the absence of time and partly because older adults tend to put up a good front in the doctor’s office.