Guilty verdict 'not justice'

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The defiant family of Ian Crutchley say justice has not been done, after the Taumarunui plumber was found guilty of attempting to murder his terminally ill mother.

Crutchley gave 77-year-old Elsie Patricia Crutchley an overdose of morphine and other drugs on February 5 last year while she was being treated for the final stages of stomach cancer at a Taumarunui rest home.

She died a few hours later.

The Crown claimed Crutchley, 49, intended to end his mother's life, while Crutchley said all he wanted to do was stop her suffering.

In the final hours of her life, Mrs Crutchley begged for help and was curled up in the foetal position, with her face screwed up in agony.

A jury in the High Court at Hamilton took eight hours yesterday to reach a verdict, but in an unusual move, sought permission to make a statement to the court, asking for leniency when Crutchley was sentenced.

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"The events of the fifth of February are such that no person should have to endure. We request leniency when sentencing," the foreperson said.

The jury had earlier told the judge they could not reach a verdict, but he asked them to try again.

The verdict brought sobs from Crutchley's two sisters, who were seated in the back of the court.

Outside court, his sister Diane Millins said she was stunned at the outcome. "I just can't believe it's turned out the way it has. I think my brother's innocent, I think he was put in an awful position when my mother was suffering."

Mrs Millins said she did not feel her mother was at rest, and said the quality of palliative care for the elderly in New Zealand needed to be examined. "The health system has a lot to answer for – if I'd known then what I know now, it wouldn't have happened."

She urged New Zealanders to look after their elderly, and to ensure that when they were put into rest homes that they received proper care.

Crutchley's lawyer, Roger Laybourn, was disappointed at the outcome, but pleased with the compassion shown by the jury in its call for leniency. "I think it demonstrated some real sensitivity from the jury."

Mr Laybourn said Crutchley accepted the verdict, but said his conscience was clear.

He described Crutchley as a "very decent and good man, devoted to his mum, and with wonderful values".

Mr Laybourn said while there needed to be very clear guidelines to deal with people in the terminal stages of life, he did not have the answers.

At the request of Mr Laybourn, Justice Keane did not enter a conviction, but remanded Crutchley on bail to reappear in court tomorrow for a sentencing date to be set.

Waikato Times