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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 16:41 GMT
Columnist reveals 'mercy killing'
Birmingham Mail columnist Maureen Messent
Maureen Messent says she has never regretted her action
Police are looking into a Birmingham journalist's claim in her newspaper column that she killed a terminally-ill relative with a morphine overdose.

Maureen Messent told readers of the Birmingham Mail on Friday that she had spoken out because of possible changes in euthanasia laws.

She said how she had killed lung cancer sufferer Eileen O'Sullivan in Devon in the late 1960s.

Devon and Cornwall Police say they will be looking into the matter.

Eileen O'Sullivan

Ms Messent, now in her 60s, told BBC WM in Birmingham she had never regretted administering the lethal drug to Ms O'Sullivan.

She spoke of how she took a week off work from the Birmingham Mail to visit her aunt, who was on her deathbed in Devon, to go and sit with her.

She also told of how her aunt, who died in her late 80s, had brought up Ms Messent and her two brothers, acting as a mother to them all.

"I will go to my death knowing it was the right thing to do," she said.

"Never for one minute have I regretted it.

"I did the last thing I could for a woman who was more than parents (and) who was absolutely everything to me."

It is a debate which needs to be had
Mail assistant editor Alf Bennett
In her column, Ms Messent questioned whether or not her act made her a killer, concluding that to some this may appear to be the case.

Alf Bennett, assistant editor of the Birmingham Mail which has a circulation of about 96,000, said the paper supported Ms Messent's call for a debate on euthanasia.

He said: "She has said what she has said with great integrity in order to continue the debate on euthanasia and we support her making those points.

"It is a debate which needs to be had.

"We take no sides. We simply ask for a mature, considered debate on whether what she did should be classed as a crime."

He added that editor Steve Dyson had spoken to Ms Messent before the column was published.

"When she put in her column the content was brought to his attention and he went to her house to explain the implications of the story.

"She said she did not want to retract her comments and that potential changes to the law on euthanasia had prompted her to raise the issue."

Police 'aware'

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said the force was aware of what the journalist had said about the incident.

The spokeswoman added: "No crime has been reported to the force.

"We will bring the matter to the attention of our colleagues in Devon and Cornwall, where the alleged incident took place, and offer them our support should they decide to initiate an inquiry."

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "We are aware of the interview which has been brought to our attention via the BBC West Midlands broadcast this morning and are looking into the circumstances".

'I just helped her out of life' says journalist

Woman 'helped relative to die'
03 Feb 06 |  West Midlands


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