Millionaire ex-Tory councillor being investigated by police after admitting helping his terminally-ill first wife to die was also jailed after hitting the second one with a mallet
A millionaire property developer who has admitted helping his first wife to die was jailed for attacking his second wife with a wooden mallet, it has emerged.
Ex-Army medic Douglas Hellier Laing is being investigated by police over the death of his first wife, who was terminally ill, after he confessed in a letter to a newspaper that he gave her a fatal injection.
The 71-year-old former Tory councillor said he was willing to ‘take whatever was coming’ after writing the letter to contribute to the debate on assisted dying.
Following its publication, Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed it had begun a homicide investigation.
It has since emerged that Laing was jailed for three years in December 2017 for striking his second wife Susan, 59, on the head with a mallet.
Douglas Hellier Laing, 71, admitted to having helped his ex-wife die in 1998, after her terminal ovarian cancer ‘became too much to bear’. Devon and Cornwall Police have launched an investigation into the death, as it emerges he was jailed in 2017 for attacking his second wife
Laing hit her three times before calling police to their home near Exeter.
He showed ‘no emotion’ as he attacked her in October 2017 after drinking Tia Maria and Polish brandy, Exeter Crown Court heard.
Mrs Laing managed to escape to a neighbour’s home and said in a victim statement: ‘I still suffer from flashbacks and I still see his expressionless face as he hit me.’
Laing admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous harm – after he was initially arrested for attempted murder.
At the time of his arrest he was the executive member for economy, skills and tourism at Teignbridge Council but resigned and was later suspended from the Conservative Party.
Devon and Cornwall Police are now investigating the death of Laing’s first wife Christine, whom he admitted injecting with a lethal cocktail of drugs in 1998.
He said she told him she was ‘ready to die’ after her terminal ovarian cancer became too much to bear.
Laing wrote that he knew the consequences of having helped his wife to die in 1998 by injecting her with a cocktail of drugs and that he was not bothered ‘one jot’ by them
Exeter Crown and County Court heard in 2017 that Laing had shown ‘no emotion’ as he attacked his second wife with a mallet after drinking Tia Maria and Polish brandy
In the letter, published in the Sunday Times in October, he wrote: ‘I’m in tears as I recall that conversation.
‘I have struggled with what I did and only recently spoken to close family about it.
‘I wanted to make my actions public knowledge in support of the move to legalise assisted dying.
‘Taking the brave decision she did allowed my wife to say goodbye to our two sons while she was able to, and allowed us to have a final cuddle. Then she was gone.
‘I know the consequences and it doesn’t bother me one jot.’
Laing said doctors familiar with his military nursing experience provided him with the lethal drugs to prevent his wife dying in a hospice.
He kept it secret until last year, when he began to follow the Sunday Times campaign Dying with Dignity, which backs efforts to legalise assisted dying.
Laing was being supported by Dignity in Dying, a separate campaign to change the law on assisted suicides, but the charity distanced itself from him after the latest revelations emerged.
Chief executive Sarah Wootton said: ‘Dignity in Dying will not be commenting further while police investigations are ongoing.’
Laing, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, met his first wife in 1968 when she was a student nurse at a military hospital in London.
He would not comment on her death or the 2017 attack.
Devon and Cornwall Police said they ‘have launched a homicide investigation in relation to the death of a woman in Devon in the 1990s. Inquiries remain ongoing’.