A 71-year-old man in the UK was sentenced to 18 months in prison Friday for letting his mentally ill wife starve to death in squalid conditions at their home, while he himself was visiting pubs and bookmakers.
William Pottinger from Berkshire in South East England failed to care for his wife, Gillian, who had not been outside in three years and was largely confined to her couch, the court was told.
Pottinger admitted that he allowed his wife to lie on a sofa and waste away in her own bodily excretions.
In what was described by the judge as a "horrific" case, the court also heard Mrs Pottinger had begun to seriously deteriorate mentally in 2000. And the last time she was out of her house was three years before her death.
She died on a flea-infested couch in June 2006, weighing just four-and-a-half stone (28.5kg), Daily Mail reports.
Judge Christopher Tyrer was told that on two occasions neighbours reported hearing her screaming and contacted social services, but when they went to the house to try to help, they were turned away.
The court heard Mrs Pottinger, 61, had suffered from a condition known as Senile Squalor Syndrome.
The disorder means sufferers are unable to look after themselves and live in extreme self-neglect.
Pottinger shared his home with his wife Gillian and his brother-in-law, Andrew Flory.
The 71-year-old's defence barrister branded them a "psychogically unusual" trio who lived a dysfunctional and strange life.
Sentencing Pottinger, Judge Tyrer said: "Mrs Pottinger's suffering must have lasted months.
"Her death was in squalid and degrading circumstances and the distress she suffered in the months before her death does not bear thinking about.
"At any stage in the final months, you could have called for help, but you did not."
He added: "This is quite extraordinary in the 21st century as a set of circumstances."
Pottinger wept in the dock as the court heard about his wife's and his own mental condition.
The court was told he was "highly suggestible" and of low intelligence and would not have been able to resist when his wife told him she did not need any help.
Harendra De Silva, for the defence, told the court how Mrs Pottinger's illness might have started as far back as the 1960s after the birth of her son.
Part of the illness manifested itself in hoarding property and rubbish in her Reading home, he added. That meant her son Mark had been too embarrassed to bring home friends from an early age.
In the last years of her life, she and her husband had also become isolated from the rest of her family.
De Silva continued: "She did go once to the doctor's but she would not accept that she needed any help."
On another occasion, a doctor visited the house, but Mrs Pottinger managed to convince him that nothing was wrong.
Psychiatric reports showed that experts were baffled as how Mrs Pottinger's condition had been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that it had.
The defendant was dominated by his wife and was showing signs of early stage dementia which might be worsened by a spell in prison, the court heard.
Judge Tyrer, sitting at Reading Crown Court, said that the pensioner must have known of the danger his wife was in.
He added: "You slept next to her on the floor of the house."
"If you had called for professional help your wife could have lived, she could have recovered to lead a normal life."