‘Despair’ led to wife-killing
He was the “perfect example of a caring husband”, but after caring for his chronically ill wife 24 hours a day for 14 years, it got too much for him.
Four days before Christmas, 2008, as Joan Brooks lay paralysed on the floor of the bedroom they had shared for more than 40 years, Tony Brooks took the World War 2 Beretta he had inherited from his father and shot her twice in the head.
On Monday, the former chief provincial traffic inspector - now 70 - shuffled sadly into the dock of the Durban High Court to plead guilty to murder.
He will be sentenced by Acting Judge Jeff Hewitt on Tuesday afternoon.
“One cannot help but have sympathy for his predicament,” his lawyer Robin Palmer submitted during the hearing on Monday.
State advocate Rea Mina agreed, labelling the case “tragic”, and saying there were clearly circumstances to warrant a deviation from the legislated 15-year prison sentence for the crime.
In his guilty plea read out to the court, Brooks said his wife had been chronically mentally and physically ill since 1994, and he had taken early retirement in 1996 to care for her full time.
She had tried to end her life several times - once taking ant poison - “which was extremely distressing”, he said.
On December 21, 2008, he gave her breakfast in bed as usual, and then helped her up. She fell down and he could not get her to the chair in the lounge.
Realising that she could not walk at all and that he was too weak to even drag her, he called for an ambulance.
Several calls later - including calls to his adult children - when the ambulance had not arrived, he got out his gun and shot her.
“Although I felt sad, helpless and despondent when I did so, I knew what I was doing and could have stopped myself from shooting her,” he said.
It was left to his son Gary Brooks, a warrant officer in the SAPS, to fill in the gaps of his parents’ lives over the past 10 years as his mother became more and more ill, with finances too thin to put her into care or to get professional help.
The policeman testified that his father was completely dedicated to his mother, who suffered from pre-senile dementia and who, at times, had been institutionalised and treated in hospital.
But money ran out and it was compounded by a violent house robbery in 2000, in which his father’s car and everything of value was taken.
His stolen credit card was used fraudulently and he could no longer afford to pay for medical aid, which was costing him almost half of his pension every month.
In a statement submitted to the court, Gary Brooks said the deterioration of his mother’s condition - “a long, slow torture to our hearts” - had had a profound effect on his father.
“He is the most caring and loving father a son could ever wish for, and I bear nothing but love and forgiveness in my heart towards him,” he said.
“He was the perfect example of a caring husband … he went beyond the call of care … he watched the deterioration of my mom, the person he had loved for 40 years.”
Palmer said there was no doubt that Brooks had felt “trapped and helpless”.
“This court cannot punish him any more than he has punished himself. He has to live with what he did,” he said.