A RETIRED police officer shot dead his terminally ill wife before turning the gun on himself after agreeing they did not want to live without each other.

Former soldier John McDonald Smith, 79, survived and still has a bullet lodged in his head.

He said his wife Carol, 76, had agreed to the pact with him when she was discharged from a hospice and came home to die in February 2021.

Lewes Crown Court heard the life of former Surrey officer Smith revolved around his wife who spent her last days in severe pain.

He put a revolver in her mouth and pointed it upward before trying to shoot himself in the same way.

Smith told police despite her terminal illness, he wanted to be sure there was no chance she would be left without him after he shot himself.

The Argus: Wife CarolWife Carol

The court heard how the national Covid lockdown had a severe impact on his mental health.

The former soldier who served in the far east before joining Surrey Police, broke down in the dock as Philip Bennetts QC for the prosecution told the court by February 2021, it was clear his wife did not have long to live.

“She kept saying ‘I want to die, I want to finish’,” Mr Bennetts said.

Andrew Smith visited his parents at their home on February 5, 2021.

Mr Bennetts said: “When he was alone with his parents.

“His mother was in severe pain.

“His father said, ‘When you go, I go’ and his mother nodded in agreement to this.

“He said he would be going straight away, immediately.”

Smith showed his son the revolver and said the skin turning blue around her nose and chin was a sign his mother was going.

“Andrew left the room,” Mr Bennetts said.

“Shortly after, there was the sound of gunshots “At 0202am, she was pronounced dead and he was arrested.”

A Rohm RG23 0.22 revolver was recovered from the house.

John Smith survived and still has a bullet in his head, lodged between the brain stem and carotid artery.

In an email dated February 5, Smith wrote to his children: “Your mum and I had been married for 47 years.

“In our late 70s, it was never really likely we would clock up many more years.

“If she was to pass away before me, I would like to go right away.

“I do not wish to live without your mum.

“This is not a slight on any of you.

“I love you all and I just don’t wish to live without you mum.”

When he was able to be interviewed in hospital, police told him his wife was dead.

“I’m glad,” he told officers.

“She was in a lot of pain.”

When police told Smith he would make a full recovery, he became very upset, Mr Bennetts said.

Smith was sectioned under the mental health act soon after.

Lewes Crown Court heard the former soldier and policeman had cared for his wife for many years and the family were concerned for his mental health when it became clear she did not have long to live.

The couple were married for 47 years and the court heard Smith had a history of depression and suicidal ideation.

When it was clear nothing more could be done for his wife, Carol was moved home and a bed was installed in their living room at Watermill Lane in Bexhill, East Sussex.

Son James Smith said his father told him he could not live without his wife.

In a statement he said: “I feel it is important for his sake for the court to know, he would have wanted to stop her pain.”

Michael Hewson said he had given his father-in-law a pistol and ammunition he found to hand in to the authorities when he was still a serving police officer.

Smith also claimed to have found another gun around the same time and had kept both.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr Marco Picchioni told the court there had been a degree of preparation and planning and recommended returning Smith to hospital for further treatment.

Tom Nicholson Pratt, for Smith, said his client had cared for his wife for many years.

“There is nothing to contradict his love and devotion to her.

“Her condition was difficult for both of them, but he lovingly attended to both of their needs.

“The 2020 restrictions took a toll on her mental health and consequently on his as he felt helpless to alleviate her suffering.

“It was something they discussed.

“If one of them passed, would the other want to remain?

“Their joint resolve was for them to pass in close proximity to each other,” Mr Nicholson Pratt said.

Her Honour Judge Christine Laing QC told Smith it was clear he adored his wife.

“She was your wife for more than half your lifetimes.

“She had limited mobility and was in severe pain.

“You ended her life by placing a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger.

“It is the duty of the court to uphold the sanctity of human life in all circumstances, no matter what personal views people may have.

“You were rightly charged with her murder and the crown have accepted your responsibility was diminished by reason of your mental health at the time.

“Having read all the material, this is a course I fully endorse.

“You were a devoted couple, still very much in love with each other and could not contemplate life without the other.

“This was not a situation where you had had enough or wished to be free.

“You and Carol decided neither of you wished to live without the other.

“You shot her to ensure she would not be resuscitated again because having shot her, you shot yourself.

“By some unfortunate series of events, although it is still lodged in your skull, the bullet caused no major damage.

“As somebody who had worked in service of the public for most of your adult life in the army and police service, you can be considered as somebody of exemplary character.

“Had it not been for the decline in your mental health, I’m quite satisfied you would not have committed any criminal offence, not least one as serious as this.”

James McDonald Smith said in a statement his father tried his best to look after Carol.

Judge Laing said: “Your son James said you supported his mum and your life revolved around her physical and emotional care.

“He said his father tried his best to look after her at the expense of his own health.

“They very much loved each other and made it clear they did not want to go on without each other.”

Judge Laing told Smith he would be returning to hospital where it would be for psychiatrists to decide if and when he was to be released.

“Today, you will be going back to the hospital and it will be for the doctors to decide when and if it is safe to release you.”

The judge thanked Mr Bennetts for dealing with a very difficult and very tragic case.

Before he was helped out of the dock and down the stairs to the cells, Smith said: “Thank you, your honour. Thank you.”

Emergency services were called to Watermill Lane, Bexhill, at 1.45am on Saturday, February 6, 2021 after concern for a woman in the property.

John McDonald Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility and possession of a prohibited firearm.

He was given a custodial hospital order at Lewes Crown Court on Monday.

Detective Inspector Duncan Elliott from the Surrey and Sussex major crime unit said: “This was a tragic incident which has left the family devastated, and our thoughts remain with them at this very difficult time.”

John Smith left Surrey Police in 1989.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “The gun had been given to John Smith more than 30 years ago while he was a PC in Surrey Police, by a member of his family who had been given it by a member of public he had been doing some work for at a private address in Surrey.”