Dog breeder who killed wife jailed for murder

A dog breeder from Devon who smothered his wife to death as she slept in what he claimed was a failed suicide pact has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 13 years.

Stephen Parsons, 71, of Cadditon Farm near Okehampton, claimed his wife Erica pleaded with him to end her life because she thought she had cancer.

He told the court they had agreed he would kill himself after he completed plans to rehome their 21 pedigree English pointer dogs, eight horses and five cats.

Parsons was found guilty of murder following a two-week trial at Exeter Crown Court.

A jury heard Parsons was found with cuts to his lower arms at his farmhouse after he texted a neighbour saying "by the time you read this, we will both be dead".

Prosecutors argued Parsons had been lying about himself and his wife.

Medical evidence showed the 69-year-old was healthy for her age and did not have cancer.

It also showed that she had suffered three cracked ribs shortly before her death and the jury was told her injuries suggested he had knelt on her chest as he killed her.

'Let her down'

The court heard the couple had been childhood sweethearts since they met in Somerset when they were 15 and 16, sharing a love of dogs and horses.

She went on to inherit her dog breeding business from her parents, the jury was told.

Parsons told the court his wife wanted to die because she had lost interest in life and become disillusioned with the dog-breeding world.

However, computer evidence showed she had emailed the Kennel Club about renewing her membership hours before she was killed.

Parsons claimed to have taken an overdose of tablets in his suicide attempt but the court heard there was no trace of them in a blood test.

He told the court: "I promised to go with her and I let her down. I have been a failure.

"I did not achieve my side of it."

He was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 13 years.

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