The turmoil of the World War, flights and reconstruction: this was followed by a marriage of almost 70 years for a couple from Lower Franconia. But when the woman falls seriously ill, her husband almost dies from the care – and makes a decision.
For decades, a man over 80 has cared for his demented wife almost alone. The couple have no children. Support comes from a social channel only twice a week. At the end of 2019, the poignant pensioner from Gemünden am Main in Lower Franconia was physically and mentally exhausted. After nearly 70 years of marriage, the critically ill 91-year-old is supposed to move into a home because all-round care is draining him – but the 92-year-old is desperate and doesn’t want to part with the love of his life.
So the clearly hopeless man makes a far-reaching decision. On the evening of November 3, 2019, he suffocates his wife, who says she barely recognizes him, in bed. Then he calls the emergency number, lies down with a hair dryer in a container of water and switches it on. But the suicide attempt fails.
The defendant was overwhelmed
As of Tuesday, the 92-year-old has had to answer for manslaughter in the Würzburg court, “without being a murderer”, as Chief Prosecutor Thorsten Seebach says.
Born in 1928, childhood during World War II, fleeing, returning home, apprenticeship, later running his own painting supplies business – the jury can look back on an eventful life for the defendant. “My wife and I were happily married for 70 years,” the defense attorney quotes his client. “We were only available in pairs.” But with the difficulties of caring for a seriously ill person at home, the love for life and the strength of both have waned.
Helpless, overwhelmed – the police officers who find the pensioner after the crime report to the court that someone is clearly broken. “I found a man who was utterly desperate, exhausted and tired from life,” said an official. The defendant said in the bathtub, “I can’t take care of my wife anymore. It doesn’t work anymore. We don’t want to live anymore.” Somehow he even understood the 92-year-old at the time. “I believed him to be completely exhausted and exhausted.”
Defendant says: I acted out of love
Most dependent people in Germany are cared for at home by carers and family members. For 2020, the Home Care and Nursing Association (VHBP) assumes approximately four million people who need care. More than three million live at home. There is a lack of trained nursing staff everywhere.
In a quarter of households, family members spend more than seven hours caring for them – particularly time consuming for people with high levels of care and dementia, according to a recent survey on behalf of the Scientific Institute of General Local Health Insurance. According to the German Foundation for Patient Protection, the research punctures the wounds that remain the greatest burden in terms of time, psychological and physical aspects on caring family members.
“I have looked after my wife in the best possible way over the years,” the defense attorney reads a statement from his client. He did not act out of selfishness or hostility, but out of love.
A ruling could already be made on Thursday
“I saw him as a cheerful pensioner who took very loving care of his wife,” confirms the couple’s doctor. The woman has deteriorated physically and mentally over many years. Maintenance effort has been very high recently. Running errands, household chores, gardening, partner dressing, personal hygiene and much more: “I found it was all a lot for him,” says the doctor. He had known nothing about the couple’s joint suicide plans.
The Prosecution suspects that the German suffocated his wife out of desperation because he could no longer lead a healthy and self-determined life with her. Senior district attorney Seebach suspects a deeply depressed mood behind the crime and assumes reduced guilt. The verdict could be delivered on Thursday.
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