Nov 20, 2023

92-year-old charged with suffocating wife with dementia to death

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Court documents found his wife had been living with dementia and the couple were “afraid of the future.” [Source: The Canberra Times]

Trigger warning: this story contains mentions of murder and suicide.

A 92-year-old Canberra man may be the oldest person in the ACT to be charged with murder after he allegedly suffocated his wife of almost 70 years to death.

Donald Morley, 92, is accused of killing his wife Jean Morley, also 92, by allegedly suffocating her at the couple’s home on July 31. Mr Morley is said to have confessed his actions to a health worker who approached the home on a routine visit and was then shown Mrs Morley’s body.

Police have said Mr Morley is likely the oldest person in the ACT to be charged with murder.

During his first court appearance in August, Mr Morley appeared via video link from a bed at the Canberra Hospital where he had been taken after allegedly attempting to take his own life. There were fears he could make further suicide attempts and he has remained in custody since.

The court heard Mrs Morley was living with dementia for at least the last year of her life and that after her death, Mr Morley had left a suspected suicide note on the kitchen counter which was found by the attending nurse.

“Please don’t call this murder-suicide,” it read.

Police allege on the day of the murder, the nurse could not contact Mr Morley and upon approaching the house for the second time that, he admitted to her that he had done “a terrible thing”. 

The nurse told police she found Mrs Morley in a bed, with the covers pulled up to her neck and her head on a pillow.

On Friday, Mr Morley appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court again via video link. He has been committed to the Supreme Court, where he is expected to be arraigned on the charge of murder in the coming weeks ahead of sentencing.

If you or anyone you know needs support, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

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