Pensioner accused of wife’s murder cut her throat in failed suicide pact, court hears

A pensioner killed his cancer-stricken wife of more than 40 years by slicing her throat with a knife, a jury has been told.

Police were greeted with the “extraordinary scene” of Dyanne Mansfield, 71, slumped dead in a chair at the bottom of the couple’s garden backing on to open fields in Hale, Greater Manchester.

They had responded to a 999 call on the morning of March 24 last year from her husband, Graham Mansfield, 73, who was discovered lying seriously injured in the kitchen.

He told officers he killed his wife at about 9pm the day before and then tried to take his own life but it had “all gone wrong”, jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard.

Opening the case, prosecutor David Temkin QC said: “He explained what he had done was in pursuance of a ‘pact’ made with his wife, who had been suffering from cancer.”

He said Mansfield, who denies murder and manslaughter, does not dispute he intended to kill his wife but claims his reason for doing so provides him with a defence.

Mrs Mansfield had bled heavily from a 16cm “gaping incised wound” and her windpipe had been severed.

Three knives and a lump hammer were found near her body.

Also discovered nearby were two bricks on top of a plastic wallet containing a note written by the defendant for the police.

“We have decided to take our own lives”, it said, giving instructions on where to find his house keys and how to contact his sister, the court heard.

Another note written by the defendant, addressed to his family, was found in an envelope on the dining room table.

It read: “We are sorry to burden you with this but there is no other way. When Dyanne was diagnosed with cancer, we made a pact. I couldn’t bear to live without Dyanne and as the months progressed and as things got worse, it only reinforced our decision that the time has arrived. We hope you all understand.

“Don’t get too upset. We have had a wonderful and happy life together.”

Mansfield was arrested on suspicion of murder at the scene and was captured on police body-worn cameras explaining how he killed his wife and then tried to kill himself in the garden and then in the house.

Mr Temkin said: “He repeatedly expressed frustration at having failed to kill himself. He said that he just wanted to die.”

The defendant was taken for surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he said he and his wife made the suicide pact on the first day of her diagnosis in September 2020.

The day after his arrest, Mansfield told a psychiatrist he was adamant he would not try to kill himself again.

Mr Temkin said: “He added, ‘Dyanne wouldn’t want me to do that’. He said he felt sad his wife was no longer alive but also said he was relieved she had got her wish.”

When interviewed by police, Mansfield said life had been “turned upside down” in the preceding six months.

The prosecutor said: “He said that he and his wife had a perfect relationship and wanted to remain together for the rest of their lives.

“This stable situation changed when his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

“The disease spread rapidly and quickly reached stage four.

“He said that the medics were unable to do anything for his wife.”

Mansfield searched the internet for ways to end life, Mr Tempkin said, with the pair settling on the garden as the “venue” at the suggestion of Mrs Mansfield.

Police went on to speak to the couple’s family, their friends and neighbours who spoke favourably about the defendant.

Mr Temkin said: “Some spoke of the serious deterioration in the condition of Dyanne Mansfield. All of them spoke about the defendant’s unswerving devotion to her.

“It is fair to say some of those witnesses expressed no surprise at the suggestion that the defendant had acted in accordance with a genuine suicide pact.”

Mrs Mansfield had been suffering with multiple cancers and had been undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, medical records showed.

Chemotherapy was put on hold in mid-March when she lost weight, had difficulty in swallowing and had a visible swelling on the side of her neck.

A scan was due to take place on March 19 to see if the lump in her neck could be treated but Mrs Mansfield did not attend the appointment.

Mr Temkin told the jury: “It is understood the defendant says he is not guilty of murder because at all relevant times he says he was acting pursuant to a genuine suicide pact.

“The defence has to satisfy you on the balance of probabilities that a genuine suicide pact existed.”

He said Mansfield had also pleaded not guilty to the alternative count of manslaughter because he maintains “his actions were lovingly undertaken through duress of circumstances or necessity for the purpose of avoiding any further severe pain and suffering”.

The prosecutor said an “important feature” of the case is there is no record of Mrs Mansfield’s wishes.

He said: “There is no document, no reported conversation to demonstrate her awareness of, and agreement to, any suicide pact.”

The trial continues on Tuesday.