Dead couple left note on door

Set back on the hills above Middleton Beach, hidden among trees, the house where Jeffrey and Sheila Rushton spent their retirement is a quiet sanctuary.

It was perfect for the "very private" couple but as their health failed, they began to worry about their future.

Mr Rushton, 87, had severe Parkinson's disease and 90-year-old Mrs Rushton had multiple sclerosis.

The retired farmers were faced with two choices: ending their days in a nursing home or ending their lives at a time of their own choosing.

Although their family were aware they were considering suicide, no one was apparently prepared for what happened on Friday.

Police are continuing their inquiries into the deaths but are satisfied no third party was involved.

Neighbours say they heard a loud bang in the morning, consistent with gunfire or a small explosion.

But the source of that noise did not become apparent until later in the day when a visitor to the Rushtons' home arrived to find a note pinned to the door informing them of what had happened inside.

When paramedics and police arrived, they found the husband and wife dead together in the master bedroom they had shared for years.

Both are understood to have suffered a gunshot wound.

According to euthanasia advocacy group Exit International, the Rushtons had first sought advice on how to kill themselves about six months ago.

Exit's Perth chapter coordinator Carol O'Neil said the couple were looking to buy products that could end their lives but they would have to come from America and there was a long waiting list.

She said the last contact she had with the Rushtons was about a month ago and Mrs Rushton had sounded desperate.

"Sheila made it quite plain that things were getting quite uncomfortable and more and more difficult as the days went by," Ms O'Neil said.

"They weren't having a very good time, her MS had progressed very quickly and it was difficult for her to move her hands and to walk.

"She kept saying everything was quite difficult."

At the couple's home yesterday, there were few signs of what had happened on Friday. A small bunch of flowers rested against the letterbox and for much of the day a newspaper was wedged in place, unopened.

Police tape covered big bins on the garage area at the back of the house. A camper van was parked near the door to the home and a car remained at the side.

Neighbours were either out or unwilling to talk to The West Australian yesterday. Exit's founder Philip Nitschke said it was always tragic when people resorted to using weapons to end their lives.

"It takes time to organise the peaceful and effective options that we promote - it can't be done in a hurry," Dr Nitschke said.

"Where people often haven't got the time to organise something … they become desperate and desperate people do desperate things."

A member of the family said they did not want to comment.

A police spokeswoman said a report would be prepared for the Coroner.

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.


The West Australian

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