Jail for attempted mercy killing

Thomas Hawkes at Laganside Courts

A man has been jailed in Belfast for three years over the attempted mercy killing of a lifelong friend. Fifty-nine year old Thomas Charles Hawkes donned his best suit, had several drinks and went to the Royal Victoria Hospital where his best friend William Cousins was being treated for a stroke he had suffered three weeks previously.

In police interviews he claimed that just a few weeks before Mr Cousins suffered the stroke, the friends had made a pact that one would kill the other if they became ill with no prospect of a cure.

Hawkes told police that he, “knew what he had to do” and had put on his best suit before going to the hospital “to give Billy a little dignity”, and also because he knew he would be leaving with the police. During the trial, the Crown expressed the view that the offence was aggravated because it was pre-planned and, that while Hawkes was remorseful, it was because he had not succeeded in killing his friend.

The case was clearly not voluntary euthanasia or even assisted suicide. But – if the evidence is to be believed – it falls in a rather grey area where a clear request had been made at an earlier time and responded to in a brave and compassionate manner. It calls for deep reflection on a wide range of end of life scenarios. But what is perhaps clear, is that if more assisted death options were openly available under the law, fuller discussion could put everyone’s mind at rest.

Read a full account in the Belfast Telegraph here.

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