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Mercy killing journalist answers critics

Birmingham Mail columnist Maureen Messent has spoken out after a week in the spotlight over her confession that she helped her terminally ill aunt to die.

Maureen has received both praise and criticism after speaking out on the mercy killing in her weekly column, with some readers’ letters describing her as “a murderer deserving prison”.

She gave her sick relative an overdose of the painkiller morphine.

Speaking in her follow-up column, she said: “These have shocked me: The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a murderer as ‘one who kills another human with malice aforethought, who kills wickedly or inhumanely’.

“I doubt that even those who deplore my actions can seriously include me in that bracket.”

Maureen revealed her family secret after 30 years because of possible changes in euthanasia laws, re-kindling a debate far wider than Birmingham.

She said: “The week that has passed has seen me both regretting my honesty and, at the same time, telling myself that I was right to bring up the past in public to enrich a debate that many feel must be had.

“I’m sorry if I have hurt those Catholics who feel I’ve let our shared faith down. I can only say I acted through love in dreadful circumstances.

“When I went to confession, the priest told me that, although all life was sacred, God would know my motives and would understand my feelings that I was acting for the best.

“I never knew this man. He was just a confessor at St Anne’s, Digbeth, but his last words when we parted have been a shield to me down through the years and particularly through this last week.

“We live in times when life is cheap. There is abortion on request, countless thousands of murders on the streets and, nearer home, killers walk free after serving laughably short sentences, pedestrians are mown down by out-of-control drivers who are often not charged with more than recklessness.

“I have always upheld the right to life, but we have reached the stage in Britain when we must provide more hospices, more specialist care for the terminally ill.”

To read the column in full, click here.

Following her admission Maureen is to be questioned by police in Devon and Cornwall where the mercy killing happened.

A detective sergeant from the Torbay area has been appointed to carry out the inquiry under the supervision of a detective chief inspector.

It is understood police have already spoken to Maureen’s relatives and scoured records for Eileen’s death certificate, and a spokesman told the Mail Maureen would be spoken to in the near future.

It is likely she will be interviewed under caution in the presence of her solicitor with the questioning taped by police.

The process, known as a voluntary interview under caution, could be carried out at her home or at a police station and police would then compile a file and send it to the Crown Prosecution Service which must decide whether any charges should be brought.