Dementia sufferer's murder charge dropped


An 88-year-old Perth man accused of fatally stabbing his wife of 56 years has had a murder charge dismissed but will spend the rest of his life in a secure nursing home for people suffering dementia.

The Supreme Court of WA heard during a fitness to plead hearing on Monday there was a strong circumstantial case against John Huggins, who is believed to be responsible for the death of his 75-year-old wife and carer at their Piara Waters home in March.

Defence lawyer Seamus Rafferty said the couple had had a seemingly happy marriage and there was no obvious reason for the attack, although Mrs Huggins had been looking up holidays and respite care on the internet, and that had previously caused an "incident".

The next door neighbour tried to help her after speaking with Huggins and becoming concerned by his behaviour.

After hearing Huggins' dementia was advancing, Justice Stephen Hall determined the elderly man would never be fit to stand trial and said he had few options to deal with the case under current legislation.

A custody order would result in Huggins being sent to prison, where he would be extremely vulnerable, while sending him to a mental health hospital was unsuitable as they were for treatable conditions.

There was only one "declared place" in Perth for cognitively impaired accused, and that was unsuitable as its residents tended to be younger and Huggins would again be vulnerable, the judge said.

Huggins was instead ordered to remain in a secure ward at Armadale Hospital that caters for older adults with mental health issues until he can be accommodated at a dementia-specific facility, with his legal guardian and son Gary assuring he will stay there.

"This is an extraordinarily sad case," Justice Hall said.

"He needs constant care. He's not ever going to be in a state where he can be released into the community."

Huggins had shown no significant aggression while being treated in hospital, where he took his medication, and his risk to others was believed to be low, the court heard.

Gary Huggins said his father had become frail and aged a lot in recent months.

The family declined to comment when leaving court.