Son who threw his terminally ill 79-year-old mother to her death spared jail

Jessica Carpani
Langley Lodge care home in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex - Eastnews Press Agency

A teacher who threw his terminally ill 79-year-old mother to her death from a first-floor balcony spared jail as judge describes it as a "mercy killing".

A "devoted, loving son" who killed his dying mother to end her suffering by dropping her from a first floor fire escape at a care home has been given a suspended jail term.

Robert Knight, 53, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his 79-year-old mother June at an earlier hearing at Basildon Crown Court.

The languages teacher had denied murder and was cleared by a jury.

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Judge Samantha Leigh, sentencing Knight at Basildon Crown Court on Friday, told him: "You are someone who acted out of love and desperation.

"You have been punished enough and you have to live with what you have done."

She went on to describe it as a "mercy killing".

Knight was sentenced to 24 months in prison suspended for 24 months.

The incident happened at Langley Lodge Care Home in Westcliff, Essex, where Mrs Knight was receiving end-of-life care.

Credit: EAST NEWS PRESS AGENCY

Knight, of The Fairway, Leigh-on-Sea, signed into the care home on the evening of December 10 and lifted his mother out of bed.

He dropped her from a fire escape and there was "no planning" involved, the judge said.

The judge said: "This is a very sad case - anyone listening to the details of Mrs Knight's illness and her condition couldn't fail to be moved."

She added that to "watch someone you love suffer as she was suffering... is truly cruel".

The court heard that Mrs Knight had dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and a post-mortem report showed she had a twisted bowel that would have caused her pain.

Knight visited her regularly, brushing her hair and cutting her nails, the judge said.

She added that a "do not resuscitate" notice was in place at the time and care home staff "didn't think she would survive the night" from December 9 to December 10 last year.

"You were convinced that she was suffering and it was more than you could bear," the judge told Knight.

"You are described as a devoted, loving son," she added.

"This case, I'm sure, was a very finely balanced one as to whether it was in the interest to prosecute in the first place."

Michael Levy, mitigating, said Knight had no previous convictions, was remorseful, had admitted manslaughter and had spent more than nine months in custody while criminal proceedings were under way.

Knight was ordered to complete 60 days of rehabilitation as part of his sentence, before he walked free from court.