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Couple found dead with their pets after relatives' call to paramedics

Key quote

"Mandy had been very poorly - she could not speak and could not walk. The family are devastated. I believe Mandy was very disabled and getting worse. She had moved to Shetland to be nearer her parents. It is terrible news and everyone's thoughts are with their families." - RELATIVE

Story in full THEY had spent barely a day apart since meeting and falling in love 16 years ago - the struggling rock musician who would become one of Scotland's top children's authors and cartoonists, and the quiet unassuming girl from the Northern Isles.

Richard Horne, better known as Harry Horse, and his wife, Mandy, had a relationship that was, according to everyone who knew them, simply extraordinary.

Brought together by a love of music and art, they lived together in a succession of rural idylls, from East Lothian to Loch Awe, before returning to Mrs Horne's native Shetland.

There, they took a house on Burra Isle, overlooking the sea, after the multiple sclerosis that had stricken Mrs Horne began to take its toll, confining her to a wheelchair at the age of 39.

Yesterday, three days after Mr Horne's final work appeared in a national newspaper, the couple's bodies were discovered, lying together in their remote bungalow after an apparent suicide pact.

One theory was that Mr Horne helped his desperately ill wife to end her life before taking his own. It is understood their pets were also found dead.

The tiny island community of Papil, on Burra, was in shock after the discovery of the bodies by paramedics, who were called to the house by concerned relatives yesterday morning.

And last night, as a police investigation began into the double tragedy, friends and colleagues in the media united in paying tribute to Mr Horne, 46, who was hailed as a "unique and irreplaceable talent", and his devoted wife.

A relative of Mrs Horne, 39, who asked not to be named, said she had been ill for some time. "Mandy had been very poorly - she could not speak and could not walk. The family are devastated," she said. A resident said: "I believe Mandy was very disabled and getting worse. She had moved to Shetland to be nearer her parents. It is terrible news and everyone's thoughts are with their families."

Mr Horne was a regular contributor to The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Sunday Herald. His final regular cartoon for the Sunday Herald appeared in the newspaper last weekend - a typically bizarre and striking work entitled Atlantis Rising.

Richard Walker, the newspaper's editor, told The Scotsman: "Harry was a remarkable talent and remarkable man and persuading him back to work as a newspaper illustrator and cartoonist is one of the things I have been most proud of in my time as editor.

"He brought a unique outlook to our comment pages and had done so since November 2005. He is irreplaceable and will be very sadly missed.

"As a cartoonist, he didn't want ever to do the obvious. His drawings were fantastic.

"I never met his wife, but he was devoted to her and I know her illness had been a very painful experience for him."

Caroline Sheldon, Mr Horne's literary agent and long-standing friend of the couple, said: "His partnership with his wonderful wife Mandy was extraordinary. She was his most solid support for years, but when she contracted chronic and terminal MS, he cared for her.

"He was a genius, both in words and illustrations. He was a man in many ways from another age - a polymath whose nature and sensibility were alien to the demands and vagaries of modern commercial life. Someone very special has passed."

As well as his work for Scottish newspapers, Mr Horne's striking illustrations have appeared in publications such as the Independent, the Observer, Vox and the New Yorker.

Tom Little, the deputy editor of Scotland on Sunday, joined in the tributes, saying: "Harry was one of the most talented and innovative cartoonists of his generation. His work was admired throughout the country and he will be terribly missed."

On Burra, shocked neighbours of the couple described the double death as "horrendous" and "tragic".

Alistair Inkster, the local councillor, said: "I know the family very well and I am deeply shocked by what has happened and I am sure the whole community is in shock because they are a very nice family and are very well respected. Burra and Trondra is a very close-knit community; people know each other and this comes as a great shock to all of us."

He went on: "The community will react to this and, obviously, they are all very sad about the whole thing. I am sure we all will come together and unite and get behind the family and do our best."

Chief Inspector Malcolm Bell, of Northern Constabulary, confirmed that an investigation was underway into the tragedy.

He said: "At about quarter to ten this morning, police officers were called to a house in Burra Isle, where the bodies of a man and a woman were found.

"We are treating the death at the moment as suspicious and special assistance has been called from the mainland."

Mr Horne was born in Coventry in 1960 and was initially articled to a firm of solicitors before deciding to settle in Scotland to pursue a career as an illustrator.

His first book as an author and artist, The Opopogo - My Journey with the Loch Ness Monster, was published in 1983.

Seven years ago, he won the prestigious Smarties Book Prize in the six-to-eight category with The Last Gold Diggers, his tale of a grandfather and a dog named Roo. Another of his books, Little Rabbit Lost, won the Scottish Arts Council's Children's Book of the Year award in 2003, while one of his most popular works, The Last Polar Bears, was turned into a 30-minute animated film.

However, it was his relationship with Mandy that was the abiding passion of his life, as he recounted on his web page.

It states: "My name is Harry Horse and I used to play in a band called Swamptrash. We played bluegrass and kicked up a bit of dust. I think it was happy music - it made people smile.

"During the last few gigs that we played, I met Mandy and we fell in love and married. Sixteen years we have been together, though now we face hard times as for the last two years Mandy has been ill with multiple sclerosis and is now in a wheelchair. I care for her and our life is about fighting the illness.

"I live with her in Shetland on a small island called Burra where I write and illustrate children's books. I still play the banjo and my latest offering is called Horseyboots."

His last blog entry, made on New Year's Day, states: "Mandy would like to hear from anyone who is suffering from this terrible condition known as MS.

"She is unable to type and therefore cannot operate a blog, though I help her in replies. I would like to hear from artists and musicians and dreamers of the dream ... these are hard times that we all are facing."

LAW CHANGE 'LONG OVERDUE'

SCOTTISH right-to-die campaigners say legislation to protect those who assist in voluntary suicides is long overdue.

The British Medical Association is no longer opposed to the idea, and polls show around 80 per cent of the population backs changing the law.

Last year, it emerged that May Murphy, 75, from Glasgow, had become one of more than 50 Britons to have undergone assisted suicide at a clinic in Switzerland.

An assisted-dying bill was proposed unsuccessfully at Holyrood by the Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis, while a Westminster bid to allow terminally ill patients the right to end their lives was blocked by the Lords last year.

Under Scots law, anyone assisting in a suicide could be charged with murder, with sentencing left to individual judges or to the opinion of the Lord Advocate. Mr Purvis said:

"There are too many cases where people, because they do not have that choice under the law, don't have any support.

"At the moment there are too many people who do not have a dignified death. The law is not there to support them to make a choice in their final days."

My Purvis said he has had more than 600 responses from people across Scotland in support of a change in the law to allow mercy killings.

 
 
 

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