Churchgoer admits murder of terminally-ill friend at Thirsk care home

The Sowerby House care home near Thirsk. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
The Sowerby House care home near Thirsk. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

A churchgoer has admitted murdering her terminally-ill friend by smothering him at his Thirsk care home after apparently phoning a charity to tell them what she was planning to do.

David Paterson, 81, had made peace with God, had said goodbye to some of his relatives and was waiting to die from cancer with dignity – probably within days –when he was killed by the woman who he knew.

Heather Davidson, 53, from Sowerby, Thirsk, yesterday cried in the dock of Teesside Crown Court when she replied in a shaky voice “guilty” to the charge of murder.

The basis of plea was not revealed in court, but it was understood she will claim it was a mercy killing.

She knew Mr Paterson, a loving family man with deeply-held religious beliefs, through church.

It emerged after the hearing she called the cancer charity Macmillan before she killed the widower. It was unclear how much detail she went into while on the phone to the charity.

Two phone calls she made prior to committing murder will be played at the sentencing hearing on June 5.

Davidson, wearing black glasses, her brown, bob-length hair swept off her face and wearing

a white sports top with the

collar up, dabbed her eyes with a tissue during yesterday’s court hearing.

Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, said yesterday there was a difference between the Crown’s case and the defence’s with regard to the basis of plea and the term “mercy killing”. He said it would not make a difference to the sentence.

It was understood that under relatively new legislation only certain people with a close relationship to the dying person can use the claim of mercy killing in their defence.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton adjourned sentence to allow for reports to be prepared and remanded her in custody.

He told the defendant she had the “good sense” to admit the charge and that she will receive credit for the guilty plea.

She will face a life sentence but the judge said the minimum term she must serve in jail had yet to be determined.

Mr Paterson died at Sowerby House care home, near Thirsk, on February 11. Following his death relatives said: “David lived in the Thirsk area all of his life and previously worked as a welder at Thircon in Thirsk for 30 years.

“He was devoted to his wife and cared for her when she became ill, up until her death in March 2014.

“We will remember David as a devoted husband and family man who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life.”

They added: “David enjoyed writing poetry, was a champion leek grower and enjoyed quizzes and board games – anything that challenged his mind.”

The family released a photo of Mr Paterson which they thought dated back to the 1980s.

The care home, in a large Edwardian house on an attractive road in the quiet village of Sowerby, is privately-run.