Pensioner Killed ‘Beloved’ Wife

{mosimage} An 80-year-old ex-lecturer, said to be at his wit’s end because of his wife’s dementia, has been detained under the Mental Health Act after killing her. Frank Rhoden admitted the manslaughter of his “beloved” wife Marian, 83, strangling her days before their golden wedding anniversary in March this year.

His barrister at Mold Crown Court called it a “deeply tragic case”.

Ex-headteacher Mrs Rhoden, who moved to Penrhyn Bay from Manchester 25 years ago, had been ill for several years. Robert Trevor-Jones QC, prosecuting, told the court that the couple had been married almost 50 years and had one son, Walter, who worked as a consultant cardiologist.

“Their son speaks of both as being devoted to each other,” he said. “He described each of them as being intelligent and thoughtful and the defendant in particular adopted a strong ethical code.”

He said Mrs Rhoden had suffered the on-set of dementia for some years and there had been a marked deterioration in her health during a holiday shortly before she was killed.

He said she was in debilitating pain and her mobility had been affected. She had also become increasingly disorientated and there were daily home visits from medical staff.

Rhoden was also distressed at suggestions his wife should go to a hospital geriatric ward and faced the prospect of possible lengthy institutional care.

On 24 March, the retired electro engineering lecturer strangled her with a tie while she slept in bed at their bungalow.

He had given her alcohol to help her sleep.

He then sat for some time in his fume-filled car in the garage before driving the BMW into a wall on The Great Orme.

Paramedics found him bleeding from a head wound and mumbling: “What have I done?”.

The pensioner was rushed to hospital. While there he pretended to speak to his wife on the telephone, or leave her a message, to say that he would be home later, the court heard.

When discharged in the early hours, he rang police to say that he had found his wife dead.

Rhoden denied murder but his guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted by the prosecution.

He was sent to a psychiatric hospital indefinitely by Judge John Rogers QC who made a hospital order under the Mental Health Act, without limit of time.

Defending barrister Stephen Riorden QC said: “Mr Rhoden killed the only woman that he had ever loved.

“They were only a few days short of their 50th wedding anniversary.

“He misses her dreadfully every day. He still talks to her in an attempt to communicate with her.”

The court heard that a post mortem examination revealed multiple embolisms in the brain and deep vein thrombosis and that Mrs Rhoden would have probably died naturally within days.

Judge John Rogers told Rhoden: “You will remain in hospital for as long as it is necessary.

“That may be forever, but if a time comes where it is thought you might be discharged either absolutely or conditionally to live with the public, that will be decided by a mental health review tribunal.”

Mrs Rhoden, a grandmother of three, and her husband were originally lived in the Failsworth area of Greater Manchester but retired to north Wales 25 years ago.

After her death, the family paid tribute to a “beloved” wife, mother and grandmother.