Man who tried to kill MS-stricken wife jailed for four and a half years

Share this article

A PENSIONER who tried to murder his ill wife by smothering her with a pillow was jailed for four and a half years yesterday.

John Millar, 67, failed in the attack because his wife, Phyllis, 65, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, managed to resist and get him to stop.

A judge was told that Millar may have cracked under the strain of providing years of round-the-clock care, and that despite his actions his wife wanted their marriage to continue.

However, while Lady Smith said it was easy to agree that it was "an unusual and sad" case, she decided there was no alternative to a prison term.

"You quite deliberately tried to kill her. Fortunately, your wife was able to get one of her hands between her face and the pillow so as to enable her to breathe and to shout for you to stop … had she not been able to shout at you, it does not seem that your attempt to murder her would have stopped when it did," the judge said.

Millar, of Magdalene Avenue, Edinburgh, admitted attempting to murder Mrs Millar on 28 June last year at their ground-floor flat in Ravelston Gardens, Edinburgh.

The court was told the couple had known each other for about 13 years. They had lived together for a number of years before marrying in August 2008. Mrs Millar had three grown-up children from a previous marriage, and the relationship between her family and Millar was not good.

"Mrs Millar was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis in 1984. The accused was the full-time and sole carer for Mrs Millar. She is unable to walk and relies on a wheelchair for mobility," said the advocate-depute, Leanne Cross.

Millar had one previous conviction, for fireraising in 1991, and had been treated in a psychiatric hospital at that time for depression and alcohol abuse.

On the day of the attack, he had appeared tired, the court heard.

"He entered the bedroom and asked Mrs Millar if she wanted to live. She told him she did want to live, she did not want to die, and that she was content with her life. She was quite clear throughout this investigation that she had not at any stage told the accused that she wanted her life to end, and had never requested his assistance to help her to die," Miss Cross said.

Later, Millar again entered the room. He walked round to his side of the bed, picked up a pillow, placed it over his wife's face and pushed down.

"She could not believe what was happening, but eventually managed to react," added Miss Cross.

After stopping, Millar dialled 999. He told police his wife had been strong and he could not bring himself to finish killing her.

"I thought it would be a good thing to do at the time … for both of us. Well, she would be dead and out the way.

When I say out the way, you know, she would be perhaps … not having to put up with, you know, her life as it was and my life, too, I suppose really," Millar said.

Since the attack, Mrs Millar has been in residential care.

The defence solicitor-advocate, Robbie Burnett, said it was an unusual and sad case. "He had been dedicated to his wife since he first met her … and had looked after her 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He was too proud to accept help from other people. He is beginning to understand the link between the stress he was under and the actions he took," Mr Burnett said.

Lady Smith said background reports disclosed a high risk of Millar further harming his wife, and that it would be neither acceptable nor advisable for him to resume a role as her carer, even if outside care were also to be provided.

"In a letter she has written to the court, she states that you believe you have ruined both of your lives, and that would seem to be a fair assessment," said Lady Smith. She ordered that Millar be supervised for 30 months at the end of his prison sentence.