Inquest hears how 94-year-old man asked family to help him take his own life

A 94-year-old man enlisted the help of his family to take his own life, an inquest heard.

Ralph Snell died “peacefully” at his home in Lymington, Hampshire, in January this year after taking an overdose of prescription medication.

His death resulted in the arrest of his wife Molly and his son Richard Snell on suspicion of intentionally doing an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide of another.

An inquest at Winchester Coroner’s Court on Wednesday heard that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to take any further action against them.

Giving evidence, Richard Snell (pictured) said his father became “determined” that he did not want to carry on living after suffering from “agonising” back pain since late 2017.

In a statement, Richard Snell’s partner Alison Henry said they received a call in January from Mr Snell, who said he wanted to “end his life”.

She said: “He [Ralph] said he thought he could get drugs to end his life.”

The inquest heard how Mr Snell had previously taken an overdose and tried to electrocute himself in December 2018.

Richard said he went with his father to the doctor’s surgery on January 28. He said: “It was obvious he wanted to die. I suggested the first thing was that we talked to the doctor about it.”

Giving evidence, Dr Ian Murray said Mr Snell was complaining of back pain and insomnia.

In a statement, Dr Murray, who was Mr Snell’s GP, said: “When Ralph came in he said his body was failing him.

“I think he said: ‘I want you to accelerate the end for me’. I got the impression this was said tongue-in-cheek.”

Dr Murray said he told Mr Snell he could not give him anything to “speed up his death”, but would prescribe him medication to help with the pain and a drug for his insomnia.

Mr Snell and his son collected the prescription and returned home.

Giving evidence, Mr Snell’s son, Richard, said he was “fully prepared” to help his father with “whatever he wanted to do”.

He said he had started to drive home to Somerset, believing that his father would change his mind now that he had the medication.

But he said: “That was not the case. He wanted to start straight away.”

Mr Snell said he bought his father a chocolate cake and gave him a glass of whiskey. He also helped him open the cap for the pain relief medication.

“He took them all himself. It was obvious when he took them he was very keen to take them,” he said.

“He went to sleep very peacefully. That is all that matters to me and my mother, that he had a peaceful death.”

Richard said he called the NHS 111 line with his mother for advice and a doctor was sent out. The doctor then contacted police, who arrested them both.

Detective Kayleigh Rush told the inquest that the CPS made the decision that it was not in the public interest to take further action.

Pathologist Basil Purdue said Mr Snell’s back pain was caused by osteoporosis, which caused his lower spine to degenerate.

He gave the cause of death as mixed drug intoxication.

Senior coroner Grahame Short said Mr Snell’s death was a “deliberate and planned overdose”. He said: “I am confident he planned to take his own life.”

Addressing Mr Snell’s son, he said: “It is not for me to make any judgment. I do understand your wish to support him.”

He concluded that Mr Snell’s death was suicide.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Luke Powell / PA Wire.