East Ham ‘mercy killing’ husband spared jail

A devoted husband who hanged his seriously ill wife to “put her out of her misery” and then unsuccessfully tried to kill himself was spared jail by a judge.

Edward Chopping, 84, nursed Joan - his wife of 67 years - through illnesses, but panicked when she could no longer recognise him and said she feared she would end up in a nursing home,

He put a noose around her neck at their Hollington Road, East Ham, home last May and left her to hang from a bannister, the Old Bailey heard.

Chopping then tried unsuccesfully to hang himself and took an overdose of pills so they could be re-united in death.

Police forced their way into his home and found him sobbing in an armchair next to his wife’s dead body.

Chopping was spared jail after admitting involuntary manslaughter. He received a suspended nine months jail sentence with judge Brian Barker QC telling him these were exception circustances.

“I loved her so much and could not see her suffer any more,” he told a police photographer.

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“I know it was wrong but I’m not sorry I done it. She’s in a better place now.”

Chopping, who has been diagnosed with clinical depression, was told by the judge: “In the months leading to her death it seems you pushed yourself to exhaustion in the care of her.”

He accepted Chopping could cope no longer and had clear remorse, he said.

Prosecutor David Markham admitted the utterly devoted couple could not bear to be apart.

Chopping’s health deteriorated after a heart attack following knee surgery. He later suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost the sight in his left eye.

At first Joan, 84, cared for him but in 2009 suffered a stroke. The profound effect left her unable to read, write and confused, he said.

Chopping felt her care was his responsibility alone. He was terrified she would be taken into a care home and pushed himself to exhaustion in looking after her, he said.

Her health worsened and in April last year she fell and fractured her hip. In May she was taken to hospital with a urinary infection.

She was discharged five days later. The next day after being contacted by a social worker police found her body.

Chopping, mumbling and crying, admitted: “I killed my wife. I put string around her neck then tried to hang myself. That didn’t work so I took pills.”

Miranda Moore defending said: “He and Joan had been through thick and thin.

“She wanted to be by his side. This was a man in turmoil.”

Chopping will spend the next 12 months at a care home as part of the sentence.