Bay of Plenty man John Salter jailed for killing wife in failed suicide pact

A "desire for eternal togetherness" has landed an 80-year-old Mt Maunganui man in jail for four years after he killed his wife in a failed suicide pact.

John Salter was sentenced on Thursday in the Hamilton High Court after pleading guilty to murdering his wife of 60 years, Jean Salter.

Jean, 78, was diagnosed with a mild form of Alzheimer's a year earlier but "was not abusive or aggressive towards the defendant", according to Crown Solicitor Anna Pollett.

The court heard John was required to do more around the house and that made him anxious after years of relying on her.

"This is not a mercy-killing," Pollett said.

John told police the couple had discussed "going together" and Jean would nod but later forget.

"They discussed what would happen when the time came, it was something he thought they'd agreed on," Defense lawyer Tony Rickard-Simms said.

He said his client was "driven by a desire for eternal togetherness" after meeting as teenagers and moving out from the UK in 1975.

On October 8, John and Jean went out for breakfast and returned to their home of 18 years at the Bayswater Metlifecare Retirement Village.

John made his wife a coffee, then used a necktie he'd hidden under a couch pillow to strangle her.

The court heard how Jean cried out "oh, John" as he did so.

John then went into the bathroom and attempted to take his own life. He then called a relative, and the police.

Pollett told the court there was "an element of selfishness" in the defendant's actions after being told four days earlier by village staff plans may have to be made to move Jean to an Alzheimer's care facility.

She had started wandering at night within the Bayswater Metlifecare Retirement Village.

Rickard-Simms said his client was "in a situation he did not understand and it was unbearable".

In sentencing the 80-year-old, Justice Francis Cooke said "your remorse is genuine, you are a broken person deeply affected by what you did".

"I accept Jean had agreed to your plan to end your lives together."

He suggested an aggravating factor was that John "took steps that involved a degree of calculated violence which was not impulsive".

Taking account of the defendant's age, remorse, and lack of family in New Zealand, he sentenced John Salter to four years behind bars.

The 80-year-old has already been on remand for four months.

He will be eligible for parole in a year.