A Thirsk woman has today been sentenced to life imprisonment, and will serve at least nine years, for murdering a terminally ill man at a care home in Sowerby near Thirsk.

Heather Davidson, 54, of Sowerby Road, Thirsk, had pleaded guilty at Teesside Crown Court to murdering 81-year-old David Paterson at Sowerby House care home on February 11 this year.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Ellis, of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “Today our thoughts remain with Mr Paterson’s family who have had to endure the intrusion of a criminal investigation at an already distressing time in their lives.

“Heather Davidson has claimed her motivation for murdering David Paterson was mercy killing, however in the eyes of the law and David’s family, her actions were murder.

“David Paterson was a deeply religious man who had made his peace with God in anticipation of his death due to terminal illness. The dignity he should have had in meeting death on his own terms, was taken away from him by a woman he trusted as a friend and whom he had helped in the past.

“David’s family have had to deal with the trauma caused by Heather Davidson, when instead they should have been able to grieve normally and celebrate their uncle’s life.”

Mr Paterson's family have issued a moving tribute to him. They said:

"Uncle David was such a strong character, great fun and outwardly very sociable, inwardly he was an incredibly private and guarded person. Towards the end of his life, Uncle David became less able to manage and needed our help which he accepted with great grace. However, he still retained his privacy and dignity.

"Only a few months ago we were helping to sort his home out in the anticipation he would be able to leave hospital and live there.

"We all knew of, and respected his deeply held Christian beliefs. We are, and Uncle David would have been, horrified that someone he classed as a friend and who he thought shared his Christian values, would have acted in this way. She should have known he would have wanted it to be God's will when he died and allowed him to do so in privacy and with dignity. She had no right to do this to him.

"We were anticipating a funeral that would be a celebration of his life but instead of having the space and time to remember all the good he brought, this has thrown our lives and thoughts into chaos.

"We have been deprived of the opportunity to grieve as we should have. We all have moments considering the horror of Uncle David's last few minutes and console ourselves with the thought that as he had been almost unconscious for most of the time, he would hopefully not have known anything about it.

"Our overriding emotions are of shock and horror, we all want to know why this has happened. It makes no sense at all. Heather Davidson was a church goer, a person Uncle David had helped, a person he trusted and considered a friend, she has taken away our opportunity to grieve for him, as we had the right to do.

"All the attention into his private and personal affairs is the last thing he would have wanted. He did not have a lot of dignity at the end. Davidson took away the last remnants of this and thrust him and his life into the limelight. She had no right to do that, and for all of us, including Uncle David, we want to know why.

"When we think of Uncle David we can't help smile but now that smile is tinged with the emotion clouding the dreadful way his life finally finished."