American 'will be arrested' for assisting Kiwi suicide

An American who admitted providing the means for an Auckland woman to kill herself will be arrested and charged with assisting suicide if she ever returns to New Zealand, police say.

Audrey Monica Wallis, an unemployed 49-year-old, was found dead in her bed at her Albany home in August 2007.

In a ruling released today, Coroner Katharine Greig said Wallis had died by self-inflicted asphyxiation, in circumstances amounting to suicide.

Greig found Wallis was aided in the preparation for her death by Susan Wilson, also known as Cassandra Mae, from North Carolina.

Wilson's presence at Wallis' death wasn't uncovered until May 2008, when a documentary was made in the UK about the "right-to-die" movement, which she claimed to have assisted over 100 people to commit suicide.

In the documentary Wilson explained how she had set up a business which involved her helping people kill themselves for money.

A producer of the documentary contacted New Zealand euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin, asking for help in informing Wallis' family that the programme would air.

Martin, who had been approached by Wallis several times in 2006 but thought she needed help with living rather than dying, contacted the police with her concerns.

The coroner's report says New Zealand police contacted the FBI, who interviewed Wilson about Wallis' death in January 2010.

The police inquiry found Wallis was given Wilson's name by an international euthanasia group she contacted in early 2007.

The group told Wallis that Wilson was a "doctor who might be willing to go to New Zealand to assist you", and provided her with an American mailing address.

In her FBI interview, Wilson admitted she was present when Wallis took her own life, but said Wallis had gathered the supplies to do so almost entirely by herself.

Wilson admitted she obtained a crucial piece of equipment needed for Wallis to kill herself, and took it to her house.

She then watched Wallis make the necessary preparations, but didn't touch anything.

Wilson said she sat with Wallis until she was dead, then removed all the evidence.

"She said that she took all the equipment away because Mrs Wallis wanted her death to look like natural causes," the coroner's judgment reads.

Wilson told the FBI she was there to give Wallis the "emotional support" to commit suicide.

Detective Sergeant Richard Armstrong of the North Shore police told the coroner's inquiry that police believe there is a strong prima facie case against Wilson for assisting Wallis' suicide by providing advice, guidance and the means, in exchange for money.

Armstrong said if Wilson ever returns to New Zealand she will be charged with assisting suicide.

Wilson is protected from extradition because the charge of assisting suicide is not included in US extradition legislation.

She was invited to give evidence at the inquest into Wallis' death but refused, instead sending two emails about her involvement in the case.

Wilson denied being paid for her services to Wallis, but said she received a $2,000 "gift" as a contribution towards her travel.

The coroner noted there is evidence Wallis withdrew USD$8000 from her bank account in July and August 2007, and USD$6700 was never found after her death.

Greig said she didn't have enough evidence to conclude whether or not Wallis gave this money to Wilson.

The coroner also said Wilson's emailed evidence said Wallis had everything she needed to commit suicide, and appeared to take back what she had said about obtaining a crucial piece of equipment.

Greig said she did not accept this and found Wilson had supplied the means of committing suicide to Wallis.

The coroner suppressed explicit details about Wallis' cause of death on the grounds that it could be detrimental to public safety.

Auckland Now