Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Son's sorrow over parents' death

Bill and Ann Barbour (l-r)
Bill and Ann Barbour were well-known in the Enniskillen area

The son of a couple who were found dead in County Fermanagh earlier this week has spoken of his grief.

Dr James Barbour said his father left a note on the back door of his house saying Anne Barbour was upstairs and that he, Bill, was in Rossole Lough.

On Tuesday, a neighbour found the note and contacted Dr Barbour. A post-mortem found that Mrs Barbour, 83, had been suffocated.

The body of her 89-year-old husband was recovered from the lough on Wednesday.

A post-mortem examination found that he had drowned.

Mrs Barbour was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease and her husband was her primary carer.

Speaking to BBC Newsline, Dr Barbour said his father had said in the note that dementia was "too degrading an illness to be suffered unnecessarily".


He believes his mother, who watched her own mother suffer from Alzheimer's, may have asked his father to help her end her life when the illness became too much to bear.

Dr Barbour's interview in full

"My father was a lovely man. My mother was also a lovely woman, but we had been losing her gradually over the years," said Dr Barbour.

"Our feeling is of sorrow for the loneliness he must have felt, carrying this commitment, this plan within him. Not able to tell us for fear we would simply take the matter out of his hands.

"It is possible our society should look at ways of relaxing controls on people choosing the time of the endings of their lives.

"If that was attended to, perhaps in the future somebody carrying out this wish wouldn't find themselves in the position my father found himself in on Monday night of wading into a freezing cold lake in the dark, in bad weather, on his own."

"Much loved"

Mr Barbour was a former member of the Alliance party who taught at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen.

Tributes have been paid to the couple following their deaths.

The editor of the Impartial Reporter newspaper, Denzil McDaniel, was a former pupil of Mr Barbour's and knew the family well.

"Bill came to Enniskillen in 1951, to Portora, and taught there for over 30 years.

"He was very much loved by both the boys and his fellow staff alike.

"The initial shock of hearing what has happened has given way to great sadness and sympathy.

"Bill was such a lovely man, a gentleman, with a very gentle nature.

"There is great sympathy for the circumstances they found themselves in," he said.

The initial shock of hearing what has happened has given way to great sadness and sympathy
Denzil McDaniel, Impartial Reporter

Robert Northridge, the deputy principal of Portora, said the couple were never apart.

"He was always incredibly cheerful and outgoing and friendly.

"If it was obvious she wasn't quite aware of what was going on - he would explain gently what the situation was.

"He was very caring in the way he looked after her," he said.

Alliance leader David Ford said Mr Barbour was "well-known and widely respected" in Enniskillen.

"He worked hard for Alliance, both in Fermanagh and centrally," said Mr Ford.

"He was a devoted and caring husband. I am devastated by this news."

The couple had lived in the house in the Sligo Road area since the 1960s and have four children.

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