20 Jun 2019

Euthanasia activist Sean Davison convicted of murder, sentenced to three years house arrest

7:01 am on 20 June 2019

New Zealand-born euthanasia activist Sean Davison has been sentenced to three years under house arrest in South Africa for helping three people to kill themselves.

Sean Davison in the High Court in Dunedin in 2011.

Sean Davison in the High Court in Dunedin in 2011. Photo: Photo / Otago Daily Times

Davison was convicted in New Zealand of assisting his terminally ill mother to die in 2006, and was sentenced to five months home detention in 2011.

He has been found guilty of pre-meditated murder in the South African cases for helping a quadriplegic friend and two other people die.

Davison, a forensic scientist, founded of right-to-die organisation DignitySA in South Africa.

He was arrested in September last year in connection with the death of his friend in 2013, who had become a quadriplegic after a car accident.

He was given a sentence of eight years in total, five of which are suspended.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in South Africa.

Davison became a campaigner for the right to assisted dying after he was arrested in New Zealand in 2010 for helping his 85-year-old mother, who was ill with terminal cancer, to die four years earlier.

The 57-year-old served five months of house arrest in New Zealand after pleading guilty to assisted suicide, before returning home to his family in South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu had given him a character reference in that case and wrote to the judge calling for leniency.

Davison had helped South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, in the late 1990s, to identify the remains of anti-apartheid activists.

He pleaded guilty at Western Cape High Court to helping his friend Anrich Burger in 2013 to end her life.

He also admitted to helping Justin Varian and Richard Holland kill themselves.

His sentence means that if he is convicted of a similar crime in the next five years, he will have to serve the full eight-year sentence.

On Wednesday, Davison left the court building in Cape Town escorted by his family without giving any comment to the journalists who were waiting outside.