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The Promise: Lawrence and Patricia Franks

At around 9:40 AM on July 8th 2018, a 999 call was made to the North-west dispatch centre in Manchester.


The caller told the operator;


“I’ve killed my wife.”


The operator asked the caller to tell him what had happened and the man replied;


“She can’t walk, she’s incontinent, and I can’t cope, so I’ve killed her.”


The caller tells the dispatcher that the patient is 86 years old.


The dispatcher asked if there were any weapons involved and the man answered;


“Only a lump of iron”


The caller went on to say that his wife was in the bedroom, and he refused to go in, the call handler told him that help was on the way and the man responded by saying;


“There’s a little girls party next door, don’t use sirens and spoil it”

Emergency responders arrived at the house in Stockport within minutes and found 84-year-old Lawrence Franks, he told them that his wife was in the bedroom.


Paramedics attended to the 86-year-old woman, but there was nothing they could do, Patricia Franks was dead.


Lawrence was arrested at the scene and charged with murder. The next day he was brought to Manchester Magistrates Court and spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.


Laura Keegan from the crown prosecution said;


“This matter is so serious it cannot be dealt with in these courts and I respectfully ask you to send the matter to the Crown Court.”


No application for bail was made by Lawrence’s attorney, Paul Green, and the case was adjourned for a pre-trial hearing at Minshull Crown Court.


Following the arrest, DI Richard Eales, of Greater Manchester police, said:


“This is a truly tragic incident and I would like to extend my most sincere condolences to the family of the woman who has died. “We are working to provide her loved ones with support from specially trained officers at this difficult time.”

About the couple


Lawrence and Patricia had been married for 62 years, 58 of which they spent at the home in Stockport where Patricia’s body was found.


They never had children, Patricia spent 30 years working for the NHS as a clerical worker at Altrincham General Hospital, and Lawrence was a bus driver.


The couple enjoyed travelling, they had a caravan that they would tour in, but 10 years before

Patricia’s death they were given life changing news.


Patricia had been diagnosed with dementia.


According to the NHS website, Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain function.


Dementia has many types and many causes. One type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.


Symptoms of dementia can include memory loss, reduced cognition, speech impairment, hallucinations, and as a progressive disease, the symptoms worsen over time.


Patricia and Lawrence were determined to face the diagnosis together, while they still could they enjoyed their retirement and as Patricia began to need more support at home, Lawrence made adjustments around the house to meet her needs.


Instead of travelling in their motorhome they bought a static mobile home instead and holidayed there.


Patricia asked her husband not to allow her to go into a care home, having worked in the healthcare system for most of her working life, she knew first hand that it was not a positive experience.


Lawrence assured her that he would take care of her, and he did. Every week he brought her to the salon to have her hair done, when things became confusing, he consoled her and promised her again that he would not abandon her.


When they were on their way to their holiday home Patricia forgot what they were doing and panicked, believing that Lawrence was going to leave her at a nursing home.


They went out less, social workers and other local authorities offered to help, but Lawrence believed that he could take care of his ailing wife.


They had a conservatory built and Lawrence would lift his wife between her bed, her wheelchair, and her favourite armchair so she could enjoy the same view they had looked upon for almost 60 years.


Relatives asked Lawrence to consider placing his wife into a nursing home, but he refused.


The strain of lifting his wife and acting as her sole carer at the age of 84 led to a hernia, and Lawrence had to be admitted to hospital.


Patricia was temporarily placed into a care home while he had surgery.


They were apart for 16 days before Lawrence went and brought Patricia home, but she didn’t seem to recognise him anymore.


Patricia’s mobility had worsened over the two-week period and Lawrence was unable to carry her like he used to, he asked for help from a neighbour on the night of July 7th.


When he awoke the next morning, he realised that Patricia had become incontinent.


Remembering his promise, he retrieved a scaffolding bar and hit his wife with it in the neck a number of times, before placing a pillow over her head because he didn’t believe that she had died from the blunt force impacts.


Lawrence phoned his niece and told her what he had done, he said that he couldn’t watch his wife struggle any longer and he knew he couldn’t care for her anymore.

Feeling as though his only option was to end her life or break his promise, he did the unthinkable.

Plea

Lawrence Franks had been in custody for 3 months when he was brought to Manchester Crown Court in October 2018.


Here he entered a plea of guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished capacity which was accepted by the crown prosecution.


Charlotte Crangle for the prosecution said that they had accepted the plea after consulting with the family and reading reports from psychiatrists who had assessed the defendant.


The case was adjourned until November for the sentencing phase so a pre-sentence report could be made.


The presiding judge and recorder of Manchester, Judge David Stockdale told Lawrence Franks;

"You have now pleaded guilty to count two on the indictment, a count of manslaughter. "That plea of guilty had been accepted by the prosecution. In my judgement, their decision is entirely correct. "The case will now proceed to sentence, but not today. I am adjourning that sentence to November 22, at 10am. I order that a pre-sentence report be prepared by the probation service. "You should understand that all sentencing options are open to the court. You will be remanded in custody until that hearing."

Sentencing

The sentencing hearing was held at Manchester Crown Court the following month.


The court heard that two psychiatrists had diagnosed Lawrence Franks as suffering from an adjustment disorder that had been brought on by the strain of caring for his wife when she had reached the advanced stages of dementia.


An adjustment disorder is an emotional or behavioural reaction to stressful events or changes in a person’s life.


It can present as an excessive response to the change and symptoms range from periods of low mood to doing something that they would not normally do under any circumstances.


The diagnosis meant that Lawrence’s judgement to make rational decisions had been substantially impaired.


Vanessa Thomson who represented Lawrence at the hearing told the court that he had not refused help out of pride, but because he was respecting his wife's wishes and struggling on as an ageing carer.


Ms Thomson told the court that Patricia had “told him never to put her in a care home. He knew he could no longer give her the adequate care she needed, but he also knew he could not put her in a care home where he felt she would be left to rot."


He had tried to take care of her, renovations were ongoing at their house even at the time of Patricia’s death and a culmination of her rapid decline and Lawrence’s own mental health impairment meant that he saw no alternative other than to keep his promise and do what he believed was the only thing that would keep his wife out of a nursing home.


The couple's family had provided him with support throughout the legal process and attended the hearing.


Patricia’s nephew Samuel Whiteside delivered a victim impact statement in which he said that while he wished his uncle had sought help from professionals, the family


“Believe Larry did what he did because he couldn't bear seeing my auntie as she was because of her health and he couldn't look after her in the way he wanted her to be looked after. He adored her always and looked after her for over 50 years. My family hold no malice towards him.”


Judge Stockdale addressed Lawrence before he delivered his sentence. He said;


“This is a most unusual and sad case; many would say it’s heart-rending. You and your wife were happily married for 62 years and were utterly devoted to each other. “During her decline in health you cared for her, despite your own age, and looked after her without outside help. Your devotion to her was total and unconditional.


“She was particularly anxious not to be placed in a care home and said so repeatedly, particularly as her health deteriorated. But the burden of looking after her became impossible for you.


"You could not cope any longer and, as you saw it, you and she faced the inevitable prospect of her removal into a care home. The very last thing either of you wanted to happen. This act was not planned, you acted on the spur of the moment and there was a genuine belief on your part that it was an act of mercy." The judge acknowledged that Lawrence had profound and genuine remorse and the extraordinary circumstances of the extreme stresses in which he took the actions that he did.


Judge Stockdale said;

“You showed your wife nothing but love and affection and for the last 10 years tended to her every need. Your devotion was quite exceptional. “There is no sentence I can pass that will turn back the clock or recompense for the loss of Patricia Franks’ life. In my judgement this is an exceptional case.”

Lawrence Franks was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years. He had spent 137 days in custody, the same length of time he had to live without his wife.


He was released under the condition that he attended a twenty-day rehabilitation activity course.


He made no comment after the sentence was imposed, as he had said in his 999 call;


“She’s dead, that’s all there is”.

SOURCES

"Pensioner, 84, charged with murdering his 86-year-old wife - Greater Manchester Police were called to a property in Stockport on Sunday morning and found the body of Patricia Franks ." Daily Mirror, The: Web Edition Articles (London, England), July 9, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D11E03DFBF5990.

"Man, 84, charged with murder after body of 86-year-old woman found in house - Lawrence Franks is due in court today - police believe the victim is Patricia Franks." Manchester Evening News: Web Edition Articles (England), July 9, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D11C5A3A100B50.

"84-year-old man led from the dock by security officers as he is charged with murder of his wife, 86 - 'This matter is so serious it cannot be dealt with in these courts'." Manchester Evening News: Web Edition Articles (England), July 9, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D11C5B32181CA8.

"Man, 84, charged with murder after body of 86-year-old woman found in house - Lawrence Franks is due in court today - police believe the victim is Patricia Franks." Stockport Express (England), July 9, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D1685C702EAFB0.

"84-year-old man led from the dock by security officers as he is charged with murder of his wife, 86 - 'This matter is so serious it cannot be dealt with in these courts'." Stockport Express (England), July 9, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D1685C77B640B8.

"Man, 84, on wife kill rap." Daily Mirror, The (London, England), July 10, 2018: 9. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D16009585391D0.

"Stockport man, 84, appears in court over wife's death - Lawrence Franks remanded into custody charged with murder of Patricia Franks, 86." Guardian, The: Web Edition Articles (London, England), July 11, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16D17CEEB7DD6440.

"Man, 84, pleads guilty to wife's manslaughter." Manchester Evening News (England), October 27, 2018: 7. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16F54F5F637911E8.

"A husband's determination to keep his promise to his wife and never put her in a home ended in tragedy - Lawrence Franks was married to Patricia for more than 60 years, but as her health deteriorated he reached breaking point - and ended up killing her." Manchester Evening News: Web Edition Articles (England), November 22, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FDFD3B8DCBEBE0.

"Man who killed dementia sufferer wife with iron pole is spared prison." Yorkshire Post (England), November 22, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FDB9C7E3110530.

"HUSBAND, 84, BATTERED WIFE TO DEATH WITH IRON BAR IN 'AN ACT OF MERCY'." Daily Mail (London, England), November 23, 2018: 47. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/175DFD88C61023A8.

'Utterly devoted' husband killed dementia stricken wife after promising she'd never go into a home - Lawrence Franks cared for Patricia's every need for 10 years before he found it impossible to cope and decided to end her suffering.." Daily Record, The / Sunday Mail: Web Edition Articles (Scotland), November 23, 2018. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FE5117B166D1F0.

"Husband who battered wife to death spared jail - NEWS BULLETIN." Daily Telegraph, The (London, England), November 23, 2018: 2. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FDFF204C508EB0.

"'He did what he did because he couldn't bear seeing his wife as she was' - family's words as 'devoted' husband is spared jail for killing dementia-sufferer." Manchester Evening News (England), November 23, 2018: 7. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FE3A59AC20B120.

"'Mercy killer' freed." Times, The (London, England), November 23, 2018: 6. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FE098CF2293790.

"Show mercy to sick and let them go with dignity - VIEWPOINTS Write to: Viewpoints, M.E.N, Mitchell Henry House, Hollinwood Avenue, Oldham, OL9 8EF Or email: viewpoints@men-news.co.uk." Manchester Evening News (England), November 27, 2018: 20. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/16FF89B04E44B5C0.

"First photo of pensioner who called 999 after killing dementia-stricken wife - Pensioner Lawrence Franks made the heartbreaking call admitting he had just killed his dementia-stricken wife that was aired in the latest episode of BBC One documentary Ambulance." Daily Mirror, The: Web Edition Articles (London, England), May 10, 2019. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1735AF54568C23F8.

"Distressing moment elderly man who killed ill wife in 'act of mercy' calls 999 to confess." Evening Standard: Web Edition Articles (London, England), May 10, 2019. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1735AF4B3B2E0A28.

"BBC Ambulance: This is the pensioner who called 999 to say he 'couldn't cope' and had killed his dementia-stricken wife - The harrowing call was shown on the latest episode of the hard-hitting documentary, which follows the North West Ambulance Service." Stockport Express (England), May 10, 2019. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1735EC05B61421A8.

"The pensioner from BBC's Ambulance who killed dementia-stricken wife in 'act of mercy' - The heart-breaking phone call made by pensioner Lawrence Franks was aired on BBC One documentary Ambulance." WalesOnline (Wales), May 10, 2019. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1735ADEB0625CAA0.

"'I've killed my wife... I can't cope, so I've killed her' - moment pensioner told 999 operator of his heart-rending crime." Manchester Evening News (England), May 11, 2019: 7. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1735E8DB00723A30.

"Carer, 84 'was 999 TV caller'." Sun, The (London, England), May 11, 2019: 21. NewsBank: Access World News. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1735B887994085F8.

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/84-year-old-man-led-14884087

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/lawrence-franks-gatley-stockport-murder-14882875

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/lawrence-franks-patricia-franks-manslaughter-15332231

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/husbands-determination-keep-promise-wife-15451778

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-46302864

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-44763760

https://metro.co.uk/2019/05/10/pensioner-84-beat-wife-death-couldnt-cope-dementia-anymore-9497684/

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/09/stockport-man-84-appears-in-court-over-wifes-death

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/about/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adjustment-disorders

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