Heather Davidson gets life for ‘mercy killing’

    Heather Davidson gets life for ‘mercy killing’

    Photo from the BBC


    Murder can come in many forms, which is why the tariffs for murder can vary so much. An example of someone who gets a (relatively speaking) low tariff came on 5th June 2015 when Heather Davidson was jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 9 years for the murder of her friend David Paterson.



    Ms Davidson is a 54 year old woman who met Mr Paterson (aged 81) at a support group for people with mental health issues where  he was volunteering.

    Mr Paterson developed cancer and moved into a hospice. It seems that he was a strong Christian who did not believe in assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, seemingly out of a misguided sense that she was doing the right thing, Ms Davison smothered him with a pillow.

    Of note was that she “had phoned a cancer charity shortly before” on the day that she killed him. “During the first she complained about his treatment.In the final call, made from Mr Paterson’s room on the day she killed him, she told the operator her friend was unable to eat or drink.”

    Then “Davidson told the charity: “It might be better if I could put a pillow over his head. Would I be a murderer if I did that?”

    The charity’s operator told her she would and after a conversation with a supervisor the police were alerted“.

    By the time the call was traced however, it was too late.

    Ms Davidson pleaded guilty at an early opportunity.



    This was a very difficult sentencing exercise. There are guidelines, but this seems to be a case where they are not particularly helpful.

    It would seem that the starting point of 15 years was taken. This would have been reduced somewhat to reflect the circumstances, before credit for a plea of guilty was given.

    This would indicate a starting point of nearly 11 years – so a reduction of just over 4 years. Although many judges would have given a lower sentence, it is unlikely that Ms Davidson will get very far on an appeal.


    Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.