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Photo shows Cannock couple's final moment as family call for assisted dying law

By Marion Brennan | Cannock | Health | Published:

A poignant photograph of a couple's last tender moments together has been released by their family in the hope it will help change the law on assisted dying.

The image of Dennis and Mavis Eccleston was taken after the couple had taken overdoses

The image of Dennis and Mavis Eccleston, from Cannock, was taken in hospital after the couple had taken overdoses in a bid to end their lives together in February last year.

Former miner Dennis, who had terminal cancer, died 20 minutes after this picture was taken but 80-year-old Mavis survived, to be charged with murdering her beloved husband.

In September, after a three-week trial at Stafford Crown Court, she was acquitted by a unanimous jury, ending an ordeal that had seen her locked up in a police cell for 30 hours still wearing her dressing gown and slippers after being arrested on the ward.

Mavis and Dennis Eccleston

Today their daughter Joy Munn, who took the photograph, called for a change in the law on assisted suicide, saying the family did not want their parents' suffering to have been "for nothing".

She said: "The picture was never meant for publication but we realised what a powerful image it was, and we've got to get the right people to sit up and listen.

"Some might think it's horrific but I think it's a beautiful picture. This is the end of a 60-year love story, this is mom and dad saying goodbye.

"Mom woke up just after I took the picture and she took dad's hand and started talking about their first date and their first kiss. A tear came down dad's cheek and then he passed away. They were together right to the end.

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Mavis Eccleston leaving Stafford Crown Court where she was on trial

"Staff had put their beds together and doctors and nurses had come from other wards just to see them. It was a story that touched everyone. We just don't want what our parents went through to have been in vain.

"No other family should have to suffer like this. The law is outdated and broken, families should have the choice, with the correct safeguards, over how their loved ones die.

"It's 20 months since the picture was taken, and obviously I didn't realise how significant it was at the time. But I realised what an impact it could have in raising awareness of the issue, so I asked my brother Kevin and he agreed it should be made public."

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The Ecclestons, who were married for almost 60 years, were discovered at their Raven Close home by Joy's sister Lynne and rushed to hospital.

Mrs Munn, 54, said their mother was now "fine" and pleased that the family were supporting the campaign for assisted suicide through the charity Dignity In Dying.

She said her father, 81, was in so much pain towards the end, he begged to die. "Mom says she would 100 per cent have made the same decision again," said Joy.

"This is a fight that will be ongoing. I won't drop it. The law put my mom and dad through sheer hell, it can't be for nothing."

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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