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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
UK couple die at suicide clinic
Jennifer and Robert Stokes
The couple were not thought to be terminally ill
A British couple suffering from chronic illnesses have died at a Swiss clinic, following an apparent suicide pact.

Robert and Jennifer Stokes are thought to have swallowed a lethal dose of barbiturates at a flat run by voluntary euthanasia charity Dignitas.

Mr Stokes, 59, suffered from epilepsy and his 53-year-old wife from diabetes and back problems, but neither was thought to have been terminally ill.

Dignitas, which has helped about 150 people end their lives, is at the centre of a row about "suicide tourism" to Switzerland.

In January 74-year-old motor neurone disease sufferer Reginald Crew became the first Briton to publicly travel to the country to kill himself with the help of the group.

'Carefully planned'

Mr and Mrs Stokes, from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, travelled to Zurich at the end of March and died in a flat in the city on 1 April.

They had things wrong with them but they were certainly not terminally ill
Mr and Mrs Stokes's relative

Mrs Stokes' sister, Dorothy Killackey, told the BBC: "We are very surprised. Everything seems to have been arranged, the funeral and everything.

"It was obviously very well planned but we had no idea."

She told the Daily Mail members of the family had found paperwork about Dignitas at the couple's home.

No charges

Uta Kaletsch, the manager of the retirement home where the couple lived, said: "It is unusual for residents not to let us know where they are going.

"The next thing we knew was that we were contacted by their solicitor to say they had died."

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A Bedfordshire coroner has opened and adjourned inquests into the deaths of the couple, who are thought to have a daughter and a son.

Last week the wife of Reginald Crew learned she will not face charges over his death.

Merseyside Police launched an investigation into his death, looking at whether his wife Win broke the law by helping him to travel to the clinic.

But they decided there was "insufficient evidence" and "no public interest" in pursuing prosecutions.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Emma-Jane Kirby
"Their families knew nothing of their decision"



SEE ALSO:
No charges over assisted suicide
09 Apr 03  |  Merseyside
Euthanasia fears for disabled
20 Jan 03  |  Health
Diane's death will be 'glad day'
24 Mar 02  |  Health


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