Brit pensioner, 93, who suffocated his dementia-stricken wife, 92, in ‘mercy killing’ is jailed for 9 years for murder

A BRIT pensioner who brutally suffocated his dementia-stricken wife in a “mercy killing” has been jailed for murder.

Donald Morley, 93, who could die within six months due to his “grievous state of health“, will now spend nine years behind bars in Australia.

FacebookDonald Morley, 93, (pictured with wife Jean, 92) has been sentenced to nine years in prison for killing his wife[/caption]

FacebookJean Morley, 92, was suffocated with a pillow by her husband in July 2023[/caption]

ACT PolicingAn ACT police officer outside the Fisher house on Monday[/caption]

In their Canberra home, Morley suffocated his 92-year-old lifetime companion Jean with a pillow after they immigrated to Australia from the UK 50 years ago.

The killer husband then attempted to take his own life after believing they had “lived too long”. 

Following the July 2023 death of his wife of 69 years, Morley was sentenced on Monday to a four-and-a-half-year term without the possibility of parole.

Four months have passed since he entered a guilty plea to the murder of his wife.

Because of his client’s deteriorating health and Mrs. Morley’s developing dementia, his attorney Jon White SC told the court that the crime was a “mercy killing.”

But Justice David Mossop of the ACT Supreme Court dismissed the claim when he imposed the sentence on Monday.

He said: Murder remains murder, notwithstanding the age or infirmity of the victim or the perpetrator.

“Murder is the gravest denial of individual autonomy.”


The judge described how, in July 2023, after going out with friends during the day, Morley smothered his wife.

Morley believed they had “reached the end” because they were not having fun, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The couple relocated to Australia after they were married seven years after they first met in the UK aged 16.

While his wife worked as an administrative assistant, Morley was employed by the Royal Australian Mint.

The judge noted that they were well-known as a devoted couple who “did everything together” and that they were childless.

“The offender always used to call Jean ‘my darling’,” Justice Mossop told the court.

The judge noted that the couple’s health had deteriorated quickly in the past few years and that Morley had personal problems, such as skin cancer that had invaded his skull.

After 69 years married we were both afraid of the future, sorry to upset all the family plus friends

Donald Morley

Because he was afraid of leaving Jean alone, Morley was reluctant to seek medical attention at a hospital.

His wife’s dementia had gotten so bad that she was unable to dress herself or use common household equipment like the microwave or television.

The court heard that Mrs. Morley would likewise object if her husband left her alone herself.

Although the Morleys had discussed voluntary euthanasia, they had never formed a suicide pact, the court was also told.

When her husband determined that their only option was death, Justice Mossop stressed that Jean had not asked to be killed.

On July 29, 2023, at around 9pm, Morley waited until his wife had gone to bed and then suffocated her for around two minutes with a pillow.

Mrs. Morley “struggled a bit”, the court was told, with her right arm twitching up and down.

Her husband then tried to kill himself while lying awake next to her.

The following morning, a nurse called on the couple at their house since Morley had not returned her messages.

A shaken Morley informed her that he had done ‘a awful thing’ when she arrived.

Police subsequently discovered a suicide note in which Morley expressed regret and that he had been “afraid of the future.”

The note read: “Please don’t call this murder-suicide.

“After 69 years married we were both afraid of the future, sorry to upset all the family plus friends.

“This wasn’t easy for me, or my darling.”

Judge Mossop expressed regret to the court that the married pair had no children or other younger family members to support them through their difficulties.

The judge declared that there had been “a gross breach of trust” even if he did not find that the murder was motivated by malice.

Since being taken into custody following his arrest, Morley has been getting palliative care at a hospice in Canberra. From there, he witnessed the sentencing via a video link.

His ‘grievous state of health’ is predicted to cause his death within six months.

“It may be that he simply remains in a hospital or hospice until he dies,” Justice Mossop said.  

Neighbour Judy Jones, who knew the Morleys for 40 years, told A Current Affair: They were devoted to each other. I mean they had their snappy moments, but they were devoted to each other.

“I think it’s only a mercy killing as far as I’m concerned.

“He’s done it out of compassion. Not hate. He loved her very much.”

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