Published: 16:51, 17 January 2019
| Updated: 19:04, 17 January 2019
An exhausted and desperate pensioner killed his wife and attempted suicide after reaching breaking point over her severe dementia, a court heard.
Stephanie Packman made her husband Michael promise not to put her into residential care and to take her life if she reached the stage where she could no longer recognise people.
They were found lying side by side in the bedroom of their Sittingbourne home.
Her throat had been cut and he had a knife embedded in his abdomen.
Packman, who was conscious, was taken to a London hospital and treated for superficial wounds to his stomach and wrists.
He told a paramedic: “I cut her throat, but I couldn’t do it on my own and she helped me.
“I wanted to make sure she died. I tried to cut my wrists.
“I put the knife in my stomach, but it didn’t bleed, so I took it out and put it in again.”
The 67-year-old walked free with a sentence of two years imprisonment suspended for two years after admitting manslaughter by diminished responsibility.
He will be given psychiatric and psychological support in the community.
Judge Adele Williams described it as an exceptional case where compassion could be shown.
“Many cases of homicide are examples of human wickedness, others are examples of human tragedy,” she said.
“This case, in my judgement, is most certainly about human tragedy.
“The taking of a life is always a grave crime, but the exceptional circumstances of this case require the court to show compassion.
Maidstone Crown Court was told before Packman took the tragic action he had fetched 64-year-old Mrs Packman, known as Stevie, from Woodstock Residential Care Home in the town, saying he was taking her home for an hour.
Mrs Packman, who grew up in Lenham and worked as a hairdresser, and her husband had been married for 36 years and were devoted to each other. They did not have any children.
Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Mrs Packman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in December 2011 and also had diabetes type two.
After Packman had a stroke in August 2017, her health began to decline more rapidly and in her confused state she started to call him dad.
He sought professional help for her in February last year.
He told of being exhausted and of her “wandering” at night.
An urgent referral was made to the community health team and Social Services and it was decided she needed 24-hour monitoring.
"Many cases of homicide are examples of human wickedness, others are examples of human tragedy" - Judge Adele Williams
He was struggling to care for her. On May 25, he phoned for an ambulance after finding his wife wandering around outside in just her underwear.
He declared he could not cope and threatened to take an overdose.
A placement was found for Mrs Packman at a care home in Chatham, but her husband declined it.
At the end of the month he agreed to a permanent placement.
She was admitted to Woodstock residential home on June 4. He later felt suicidal because he was no longer able to care for her.
The following month she had daily falls. In one tumble, she hit her head and Packman took her to hospital for treatment because an ambulance took too long.
Mr Bennetts said Mrs Packman became agitated and aggressive and was in need of one to one care.
On July 29, Packman handed a friend a travel bag with £36,000 cash in it and asked her to look after it.
The same day he went to Dunelm store and bought a set of kitchen knives, two of which he was to use on his wife and himself.
At around 1.45pm, he signed Mrs Packman out of the care home saying they were going home to Hurst Lane in Kemsley for an hour.
They arrived at 2.18pm. At about 5.37pm, a friend Angela Thorpe returned a baseball bat to the house and saw that the front door was ajar.
She assumed Packman was sleeping when there was no answer and the bedroom curtains were closed.
A staff member at the home contacted the police at about 7.45pm as Mrs Packman had not returned.
Officers went to the house just after midnight and found the door ajar and the baseball cap hanging on the handle.
“They could hear moaning and groaning coming from inside the property,” said Mr Bennetts.
“The entered the bedroom and discovered Stephanie, fully clothed, lying motionless on the bed, with a significant amount of congealed blood around her neck, and Michael, shirtless, lying next to her with a knife embedded in his chest.
“Officers also observed another knife wound in his lower left abdomen with congealed blood and slash marks across his right wrist.”
An ambulance arrived and treated Packman. He indicated it happened at 3pm.
"The taking of a life is always a grave crime, but the exceptional circumstances of this case require the court to show compassion" - Judge Adele Williams
He told a paramedic: “Steph helped me to do it because she calls me dad ever since I had a stroke.
“She kept saying ‘Dad help me’ at the home. The poor girl she suffered.
“I made sure Steph was gone first. Nobody looked after her. She asked me to help.”
Asked what he had done, he replied: “I cut her throat, but I couldn’t do it on my own. She helped me. I wanted to make sure she died. I tried to cut my wrists.
“I put the knife in my stomach but it didn’t bleed, so I took it out and put it in again.”
He was taken to King’s College Hospital in London for treatment.
Mr Bennetts said Packman left suicide notes saying he wanted to put his wife out of her misery and could not live without her.
Judge Williams said the couple were blessed with a happy married and were devoted to each other.
After she was diagnosed with dementia they resolved to enjoy life as much as possible.
“You have always described how she made you promise that if she ever got to the stage where she didn’t recognise people you would take her life,” she continued.
“For the next seven years you gave her devoted care. You retired early to look after her. You worked so hard looking after her you became ill and suffered a stroke.
“Unhappily, she deteriorated as this cruel disease took hold.”
The judge said Packman became overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and convinced himself the home could not care for his wife.
“You resolved to kill yourself and Stephenie. You had written suicide notes. You said you wanted to end your wife’s pain, her torment, and that you couldn’t live without her.
“I have given anxious consideration to the manner in which you killed your wife, which was brutal. I have concluded you killed her in that way because this was all part of a depressive illness which impaired your ability to form a rational judgement.
“Only you can know the extent of the despair and sense of hopelessness which led you to commit this crime.”
Mrs Packman’s relative Wendy Williamson described her shock, grief and sense of loss.
She was angry with Packman for taking her last living relative’s life.
Packman had been in custody for six months – the equivalent of a 12-month sentence.
“I conclude your responsibility for this killing was diminished to a very large extent,” said Judge Williams.
“While you were unable to express the full extent of your problems and inability to cope, you had sought help.”
A psychiatrist described it as “a unique set of circumstances”.
The aggravating features were the victim’s vulnerability, the planning and use of a weapon.
“The mitigating factors are your previous exemplary character, your remorse for taking a life, your attempts to seek help for your medical condition and the fact you believed the killing was an act of mercy.”
Medical opinion did not suggest Packman needed psychiatric treatment, but arrangements were in place for psychiatric, psychological and social support, the judge added.