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Pensioner guilty of wife's murder

Stephen Parsons from Bondleigh murdered his wife (image courtesy: D&C Police)

Stephen Parsons, 71, claimed it was a suicide pact

A Devon man who claimed he killed his wife as part of a suicide pact is starting a life sentence after being found guilty of her murder.

Stephen Parsons, 71, was convicted of killing 69-year-old Erica Parsons at their home in Bondleigh near North Lawton in 2023 following a trial at Exeter Crown Court.

The jury heard that on 11 February last year, police were called to the couple’s home after he had sent a message to a friend saying ‘by the time you read this we will be dead’.

Emergency services rushed to the scene where they found Erica Parsons dead in bed. Stephen Parson was next to her with serious injuries to his arms and he was taken to hospital for treatment.

In the ambulance he was arrested on suspicion of murder and made comments to the officer about having caused Erica’s death.

A postmortem examination of Mrs Parson’s body concluded that she died from suffocation and had died between 9-10 February, at least 24 hours before her husband sustained his injuries.

The court heard that in the months before the incident, the couple had defaulted on numerous payments and had growing debts. Stephen Parsons had been telling companies they owed money to, that the couple were both ill with cancer and were undergoing treatment in hospital.

He also claimed his wife had become dependent on drinking large quantities of alcohol on a weekly basis.

Medical evidence proved that these claims were not true and neither had been undergoing treatment for cancer.

Parsons claimed that the couple, who were well known for breeding Southern Pointer dogs, had made a pact to die together. However, Detectives found no evidence of this and were further able to show through the investigation that Erica had been making plans for the future. This included going to dog shows and meeting friends later that week.

Parsons pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility, claiming that he had killed Erica as part of pact, but this was not accepted at an earlier hearing.

Detective Superintendent James Dowler, Head of the Major Crime Investigation Team said: "This was a sensitive and prolonged investigation. We welcome the verdict reached by the jury after hearing all the evidence and also the sentence passed by the judge today.

“Our thoughts are with Erica Parsons and all those who knew who her. Erica loved animals and was heavily involved in the care of dogs and horses throughout her life. I hope the outcome reached today provides some closure to all those who have been by her death.”

He will serve a minimum of 13 years before being considered for release.

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