TICKER: Love eternal: Terminally ill wife and husband of 50 years die together, holding hands in a suicide pact

A terminal cancer victim died in bed hand in hand with her husband who couldn’t face life without her, an inquest has been told.

Bowel cancer sufferer Maureen Read, 71, had just discovered her condition was incurable and had just been prescribed a strong painkiller to cope with the pain when she died alongside her husband John, 76.

The couple had been together for more than 50 years and were found by their children lying side by side in bed at their home in Bideford, North Devon.

They were holding hands, their heads were together on the pillow, and they had left notes addressed: ‘To my loving family’.

Mrs Read was suffering from bowel cancer and they died by taking an overdose of the painkiller she had been given to cope with the pain.

 Her husband was suffering from the painful bowel condition Crohn’s Disease but was otherwise well and chose to end his life because he could not face living without his wife.

The day before their double suicide pact they asked their children to move their bed into the living room of their waterside home so they had a view of the River Torridge as they lay in it.

Greater Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of suicide on the couple, who were found dead at Bideford in June.

She told in inquest at Barnstaple: ‘I am satisfied they took a cocktail of prescribed drugs to carry out a suicide pact. We have all been touched by this very tragic tale.’

The couple’s son Duncan Read told in a statement how his parents were devoted to each other and said: ‘They were completely united and the best of friends.’

Police Sergeant Charles Morris, who was called to the house, said: ‘The deceased were found in bed lying side by side with the male’s head leaning on his wife’s. His left hand was holding his wife’s.’

The couple’s GP Dr Alison Stapley said she had spoken at length to Mrs Read, who told her she did not want treatment to prolong her life but gave no indication of considering suicide.

She said Mr Read, a retired care assistant, suffered from Crohn’s Disease but was otherwise in good health.

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