A British expatriate locked up with the Northumberland miner accused of murdering his wife in Cyprus has labeled the island’s justice system as ‘disgusting’.
Owen Williams, 27, spent 16 months with David Hunter and 11 hardened criminals in one cell before being released last month.
He said the 75-year-old retiree only spoke fondly of his wife, Janice, whom he killed in December 2021 to end her suffering from terminal leukemia.
Ahead of Mr Hunter finally testifying today at his trial in Paphos District Court, after more than 20 trials since his arrest, Mr Williams begged prosecutors to show mercy.
“They are trying to determine that David is a danger to society – but the only person he would ever be a danger to is himself,” said the marine engineer who was jailed for petty arson.
David Hunter, 75, suffocated his wife, Janice, 74, in their retirement home near Pathos in 2021
Owen Williams shared a prison cell with David Hunter and spoke highly of the former miner
“Saying he’s going to encourage other people to do it is also nonsense. It’s disgusting to attack someone his age like that.
First-degree murder carries a life sentence, which is the death penalty for someone his age.
“I shared a cell with him for over 16 months and it is very clear when you spoke to him that he loved his wife. There’s no doubt about it.
“I would ask the prosecutors to show a little compassion and mercy. Think of their grandparents if they were in David’s position.’
Mr Hunter smothered his 74-year-old wife after she ‘begged’ him to kill her before overdosing on drugs and alcohol at their retirement home in Tremithousa, near Paphos.
But medics managed to resuscitate him before he was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder – and he’s been languishing in a high-security prison in Nicosia ever since.
His other cellmates include thieves, drug addicts and a Romanian convicted of manslaughter for killing his drug dealer – a lesser charge than the one against Mr. Hunter.
Mr. Williams, who was sentenced to two years for arson for setting an unauthorized fire while not taking his bipolar medication, recalls the moment Mr. Hunter walked onto the block.
“I remember thinking, ‘What is this guy doing in prison? He poses no danger to society.’
‘I think he looked at me like I was English – we were the only English boys there – and he introduced himself and said where he was from.
“I just said, ‘Well, what are you doing here?’ He came straight out, said what he had done and why he did it.
“He said how his wife had leukemia for four or five years, how she wanted him to help her commit suicide.
“The way he described it, it wasn’t malignant at all. When he told me I wasn’t mad at him, or that he had done something wrong. He helped someone he loved.’
“It took courage to do what he did,” added Mr Williams, who moved to Cyprus 16 years ago to live with his elderly grandparents in Maroni. “You wouldn’t do that for any old person—you wouldn’t make that sacrifice for anyone.
“I think it was something done out of love, not malice. He’s just a man who wouldn’t bear to see his wife in the condition she was in.’
Mr. Hunter spent his days sharing stories of how he met Janice when they were teenage sweethearts, reminiscing about their marriage and remembering how proud he was of their daughter, Leslie, 50.
“You can tell by the way he talks about her when they were younger that he loved her. He was a good husband and a good father to Leslie.”
Mr. Hunter will testify today after more than 20 court appearances
Custodial vans arrive today at Paphos District Court in Cyprus, where David Hunter of Northumberland is charged with the murder of his terminally ill wife, Janice Hunter
He also told Mr. Williams about his life in the well, while the marine engineer shared diving stories to break the monotony of prison life.
But now he fears for Mr. Hunter’s welfare after he is released and there are no other Englishmen on the block.
The 13 cellmates sleep on seven bunk beds and share two toilets, one of which is just a hole in the ground.
They have to get up at 8am for a breakfast of boiled eggs and halloumi, before being given meat and rice for lunch, and the same again for dinner at 3pm.
“The chicken was always slimy and awful,” said Mr. Williams. “The quality of the food is terrible and it’s always cold.”
Beyond the cell, they have a small yard to exercise, surrounded by huge brick walls topped with barbed wire.
“It’s no place for a man his age,” Mr Williams said. “We would be alternated to clean the toilets ourselves.”
Mr Williams, who speaks fluent Greek, also helped the pensioner sign up to attend church for his wife’s anniversary, for Christmas and for her birthday – but it was turned down each time.
Mr Hunter was returned to his home by police as part of the investigation on the day of his wife’s funeral, just yards from the property. When he asked for her grave at five minutes, officers refused and dragged him back to jail.
“He’s a tough guy, but that’s what brought him down,” said Mr Williams.
But despite the grim existence in prison, Mr. Hunter tried to make the best of it by teaching his cellmates how to grow vegetables in the garden.
‘He gave us advice because he used to have his own allotment garden in the UK. He taught us how to make compost for tomatoes.
“When we have breakfast, sometimes we get hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. He would keep the eggshells. We get salad with most meals, so he told us to put the lettuce we don’t eat in a container and leave it outside in the summer. And in the winter we have compost.’
When Mr. Williams was told he was due to be released last month, it was bittersweet. “I didn’t want to leave him there,” he said. ‘I’m not allowed to visit. I suspect he will have his head in his books all the time now.’