Published: 00:01, 28 June 2014
A year before Avril Arnold died she bought a canister of lethal gas so she could take her own life if her numerous illnesses became unbearable.
This was the heartbreaking story that emerged at an inquest into her death, which heard she was suffering from painful pancreatitis and osteoarthritis, debilitating Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Fighting back tears Royston Arnold, her husband of 57 years, described how the 79-year-old mother of three repeated the phrase: “I really want to go,” shortly before he found her dead in bed.
Mr Arnold, who lived with his wife in Oaks Road, Tenterden, told the inquest in Folkestone: “She threatened suicide three or four times, but I always managed to talk her out of it.
“We used to talk it through, often through the night. I realised the last time she actually meant it and I decided not to stand in her way.”
Mr Arnold said that around lunchtime on August 6 last year his wife “made it clear the time had come”.
Mrs Arnold told her husband he could not be anywhere near her when “it happened” and sent him outside to work in the garden, the inquest heard.
Sometime later Mrs Arnold phoned her friend and neighbour Jennifer Milner and asked her to send Mr Arnold indoors.
Mr Arnold told coroner Rachel Redman he waited for a while then went inside where he discovered his wife’s body and dialled 999.
Seven or eight years ago, when husband and wife were both fit and well, they discussed euthanasia and decided using the gas would be the “best way of accomplishing this”, Mr Arnold said.
They bought a canister each, using their own bank cards, and hid them away in a store room, not intending to use them immediately, he added.
He said: “We bought it so we would be prepared if we ever did need it. It was a joint decision.”
Just over a week before she died Mrs Arnold, a retired post office and shop proprietor, was admitted to hospital with a relapse of the pancreatitis she had suffered a decade previously.
She was discharged, her husband said, with no new medication and was still “not very well” although was happy to be home.
"She threatened suicide three or four times, but I always managed to talk her out of it" - Royston Arnold
Her family tried to persuade her to return to hospital but she refused.
Pathologist Dr Peter Jerreat said Mrs Arnold was jaundiced when she died and suffering from pancreatic disease.
He gave the cause of death as asphyxiation related to the way she inhaled the gas.
Mr Arnold was interviewed by police after his wife’s death but no charges were brought against him.
The inquest was adjourned, part heard, amid confusion over apparent suicide notes believed to have been left by Mrs Arnold for her husband and children.
No date was given for when the inquest will be resumed.
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