August 28, 2009 / 12:06 PM / 8 years ago

Man poisoned wife in "ill thought-out" act of love

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A British pensioner who tried to poison his estranged wife so he could rekindle her love by nursing her back to health escaped jail on Friday.

<p>A teacup in a file photo. REUTERS/File</p>

William Dowling, 69, slipped mercury into his wife Maureen’s tea at least five times.

She suffered symptoms including forgetfulness, indigestion and headaches but the mercury had no serious adverse effect on her health.

Dowling, of Colne, Lancashire, received a 350-day prison sentence, suspended for two years, the Press Association reported.

Judge Robert Brown also imposed an 18-month supervision order at Preston Crown Court.

Dowling had admitted administering a poison or noxious substance with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy.

Prosecutor Mark Lamberty said Maureen Dowling, 64, would regularly visit her old home and had gone to see her estranged husband in February last year.

He said: ”The defendant made her a cup of tea and, as was customary, poured that in a white china beaker with a yellow floral motif.

”While she was drinking it, she noticed what appeared to her to be ball bearings at the bottom of the cup.

”She showed it to her daughter Julie and commented she had noticed that in her cup before, and it always appeared to be the situation that the defendant made the tea.

“She said there were four or five occasions she had noticed that in the past. She commented and he riposted ‘they must be coming off the kettle’ and in another comment ‘they must be coming off the teabags.'”

Lamberty said that when Julie, 43, examined the contents of the cup, which appeared to be liquid metal, “the defendant seized the cup from her, threw the contents into the bin and appeared agitated.”

When Mrs Dowling noticed the silvery substance in her tea cup the following week, the defendant told her he really must clean the kettle, Lamberty said.

He said the effects on Mrs Dowling were “devastating” and had caused her to lose her self confidence and created a family rift.

Paul Lewis, for the defense, said in mitigation: ”the actions he undertook were only intended to annoy his wife so she would feel the need for him to care for her and so resurrect their relationship.

“He had no intention to cause her any significant harm. His actions were ill thought-out.”

Judge Brown told Dowling that his wife of 28 years had left him because “she had become fed-up of what she regarded as your controlling attitude toward her.”

He said: ”In judging the seriousness of the crime you committed, your ... wanting her to return to your care is irrelevant.

“What is relevant is that you are not a medical expert and it follows from that that it was more by good luck than anything else that your wife did not suffer serious harm.”

Reporting by Steve Addison; editing by Tim Castle

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