Man who suffocated his 'wife to death learns his fate (2024)

An elderly man who suffocated his lifelong partner to death with a pillow will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Donald Morley, 93, was sentenced on Monday to nine years in prison, with a non-parole period of four-and-a-half-years over the death of his wife of 69 years Jean, 92, at their Canberra home in July 2023.

The sentence comes four months after Morley pleaded guilty to his wife's murder.

His barrister Jon White SC told the court that the act was a 'mercy killing' due to Mrs Morley's worsening dementia and his client's declining health.

But ACTSupreme Court judge Justice David Mossop rejected the claim as he handed down the sentence on Monday.

'Murder remains murder, notwithstanding the age or infirmity of the victim or the perpetrator,' he said.

'Murder is the gravest denial of individual autonomy.'

Donald Morley, 93, (pictured with wife Jean, 92) has been sentenced to nine years in prison for killing his wife in July 2023. He had attempted suicide on the same night and in his note he said he was 'afraid of the future'

Jean Morley's, dementia had worsened and could no longer remember how to dress for bed or use appliances like a television or microwave. Mrs Morley, pictured, didn't like being apart from her husband and would complain if he left her to go to appointments

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The body of teaching assistant Molly Ticehurst, 28, was found inside a home in Forbes, 370km west of Sydney, just before 2am last Monday

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The judge recounted how Morley suffocated his wife after they went out with friends during the day in July 2023

They did not enjoy themselves, which Morley took as a sign they had 'reached the end', reportedThe Daily Telegraph.

The couple did not have any children and the judge said they were known as a loving pair who 'did everything together'.

'The offender always used to call Jean 'my darling',' Justice Mossop told the court.

The pair's health had rapidly declined in recent years, with the judge noting Morley's own issues which included skin cancer that penetrated his skull.

Morley was hesitant to get hospital treatment because he was worried about leaving Jean alone.

His wife's dementia had worsened to the point she could no longer remember how to get dressed or how to use everyday appliances like a television or microwave.

Mrs Morley would also complain if she was left alone by her husband, the court heard.

While the Morleys had spoken about voluntary euthanasia, they had never made a suicide pact, the court heard.

Justice Mossop stressed that Jean had not asked to be killed when her husband decided their only option was death.

Jean Morley, 92, was suffocated with a pillow by her husband in July 2023

On July 29, 2023, Morley waited until his wife went to bed and at about 9pm he smothered her with a pillow for about two minutes.

The court heard that Mrs Morley 'struggled a bit', with her right arm moving up and down.

Her husband then laid awake beside her and unsuccessfully attempted to kill himself.

A nurse visited the couple's home the next morning after Morley failed to respond to her messages.

When she arrived, a distraught Morley told her that he had done 'a terrible thing'.

A suicide note was later found by the police in which Morley apologised and said he had been 'afraid of the future'.

'Please don't call this murder-suicide,' the note read.

'After 69 years married we were both afraid of the future, sorry to upset all the family plus friends.

'This wasn't easy for me, or my darling.'

Pictured: The couple's home in the Canberra suburb of Fisher where a nurse found Jean Morley's body the day after she was murdered. The couple met when they were 16, married seven years later and moved to Australia when they were 40. They did not have any children

Justice Mossop told the court it was unfortunate the married couple did not have any younger people in their lives, such as children, to help them with their challenges.

Although the judge found the murder was not motivated by malice, he said it had been 'a gross breach of trust'.

Morley has been in custody since his arrest and watched the sentencing via a video link from a Canberra hospice, where he's receiving palliative care.

He's expected to die within six months due to the 'grievous state of health'.

'It may be that he simply remains in a hospital or hospice until he dies,' Justice Mossop said.

Neighbour Judy Jones knew the Morleys for 40 years.

'They were devoted to each other. I mean they had their snappy moments, but they were devoted to each other,' she told A Current Affair

'I think it's only a mercy killing as far as I'm concerned.

'He's done it out of compassion. Not hate. He loved her very much.'

If you or anyone who know needs support, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

Man who suffocated his 'wife to death learns his fate (2024)
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