Man who smothered spouse reduce arms in ‘faux’ ‘suicide pact’ – trial

A farmer who smothered his dog breeder wife ‘planned to get away with’ her killing by slashing his own arms in a fake suicide pact plot, a jury has heard.

Stephen Parsons, 70, was found with blood pouring from his forearms sat on a bed next to the decomposing body of wife Erica, 69, in their rural home in Dartmoor, Devon last February.

He had penned notes saying his wife was dying of cancer and had begged him to end her life.

He told police he had ‘let her down’ by not killing himself.

A jury at Exeter Crown Court heard Parsons meant to kill his wife, that the suicide pact was a ‘façade’ and that Erica did not have cancer, nor was she seriously ill.

A prominent breeder of English Setters, she was secretary of the Southern Pointer Society and had been making plans for the upcoming Crufts Dog Show in the days before her death on or around February 10.

The couple lived on Cadditon Farm at Bondleigh, near Okehampton, where they kept four horses and 25 dogs and had run into serious financial hardship.

Parsons denies murder but has admitted manslaughter.

Prosecutor Jo Martin KC said Parsons texted farmer Alex Daniels shortly after midday on February 11, 2023, and wrote ‘By the time you read this, we will be dead’ and asked him to look after their horses.

He found Parsons semi-conscious in a bedroom with cuts to both arms and a Stanley knife on a bedside table. 

Erica was dead beside him under a cover with a sheet of kitchen paper over her face.

A jury at Exeter Crown Court heard Stephen Parsons meant to kill his wife, that the suicide pact was a ‘façade’ and that Erica did not have cancer

A jury at Exeter Crown Court heard Stephen Parsons meant to kill his wife, that the suicide pact was a ‘façade’ and that Erica did not have cancer

Paramedics found Parsons had a deep wound on one arm and superficial one to the other, neither of which were life threatening. 

He told the paramedics: ‘I do not deserve help. It was not meant to end like this. 

‘We were meant to go together. I don’t want your help. I have let her down. 

‘She will be disappointed in me. This was not the plan.’

Miss Martin said Parsons told police he had taken an overdose of ibuprofen and diabetes tablets, but blood tests showed this was not the case. 

He had also made arrangements for friends to collect the couples’ pointers and told them Erica had been seriously ill with cancer.

He said she had a large and growing cancerous lump on her back, was passing blood, was unable to swallow and was drinking up to four bottles of gin a week.

His suicide notes described their financial troubles as terrible and ‘they had agreed to depart together’.

Miss Martin said it is not in dispute that Parsons killed Erica by smothering her with a pillow but that police inquiries no evidence that she intended to take her own life.

A post mortem examination showed she did not have cancer, had drunk less than the drink drive limit for alcohol, and e-mails she sent in the days before her death showed her making plans for the future, including arrangements for Crufts. 

There were no internet searches relating to suicide.

Miss Martin said the couple were heavily in debt and there is evidence that Parsons had lied about illness and even the death of his wife to fob off debt collectors.

She said: ‘The prosecution say this was not a suicide pact. 

‘Parsons killed his wife either on the evening of February 9 or more probably the morning of February 10. 

‘He did so not because she wanted to die or because she was terminally ill, but because he was struggling and in debt and because of his own circumstances.

‘Over the next two days he tried to create a façade that this was a suicide pact. 

‘It is clear he had the ability to think rationally and to prepare a story and contact other people, but not telling them of Erica’s death. 

‘He planned to get away with killing his wife.’

The trial continues.