Page last updated at 19:32 GMT, Friday, 28 March 2008

Husband let wife starve to death

William Pottinger
William Pottinger admitted the manslaughter of his wife

A 71-year-old man has been jailed for allowing his mentally ill wife to starve to death while he went to the pub and visited the bookmakers.

William Pottinger's wife Gillian, 61, died on a flea-ridden couch in June 2006 weighing four-and-a-half stone.

Pottinger, of Newtown, Berkshire, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Jailing him for 18 months, the judge said it was "extraordinary" that an incident such as this could have happened in 21st Century Britain.

Judge Christopher Tyrer described it as an "horrific" case, and said: "You allowed your wife to starve to death.

"She began to significantly deteriorate from about the year 2000.

"She last went outside in about 2003, she totally lost the ability to look after herself and she lay on a sofa and wasted away. Her suffering must have lasted months.

"Her death was in squalid and degrading circumstances and the pain and the stress that she suffered for the months before she actually died doesn't bear thinking about."

Extreme self-neglect

Reading Crown Court heard Mrs Pottinger, who lived in Beecham Road with her husband, had been suffering from a condition known as Senile Squalor Syndrome, a behavioural disorder characterised by extreme self-neglect.

The judge said that at any stage during the final months, Pottinger could have called for help and his wife could have been treated and recovered from her illness.

Gillian Pottinger (from Thames Valley Police)
Mrs Pottinger suffered from Senile Squalor Syndrome, the court heard

He said: "From the outside world you continued your life as if nothing was wrong.

"You lived alongside her day by day . . .you must have realised she was utterly incapable of doing anything for herself."

After the hearing the couple's grandson, who gave his name only as Bradley-Lee, described Mrs Pottinger as a "lovely gran".

In a statement, he said: "She would give you the last pound in her pocket. Why take her away from us?

"Rest in peace Nan, all our thoughts are with you."

Speaking after the hearing, Det Insp Rebecca Mears of Thames Valley Police welcomed the sentence and said Mrs Pottinger had been a healthy weight before she was allowed to deteriorate.

She said: "It is a particularly nasty case, without a doubt this lady suffered significantly.

"The situation was horrendous and the death horrific. We are pleased that justice has been done."

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