Great Milton suicide pact couple died in each other's arms

Raphael and Tamar Altman

Raphael and Tamar Altman

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

DEVOTED to each other in life, husband and wife Raphael and Tamar Altman chose to die in each other’s arms.

When they were found, her head was resting on her husband’s shoulder, her arm over his chest.

Their son called their marriage of more than 30 years “the ultimate love story” – but it ended with a suicide pact.

Raphael, 69, and Tamar, 72, were both in poor health.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and she suffered from diabetes, neuralgia and muscular pain and stiffness.

In October, the couple, both campaigners for assisted dying, agreed they did not want to suffer any more.

They marked October 3 in their diary with the single word – ‘depart’.

They were found lying dead on their bed at their home in Great Milton, near Wheatley, that day by a doctor .

Their son, Tai, 43, who lives near Inverness, Scotland, and has three children of his own, said he had always known their views on assisted dying.

“It is the ultimate love story really, depending on how you look at it,” he said.

“They were both activists with the group Dignity in Dying and believed in the right to choose.

“I grew up with it and lived with the knowledge that this was going to happen. It wasn’t a shock to me and I’m more than reconciled to it.”

Police who attended said the room was lit by a soft red light, and there was soothing music playing.

They had drunk a poison, traces of which were found in a bowl and glass by the bed.

Each one left a typed note indicating their plans, and a letter to their GP, Dr Lynda Ware, thanking her for years of care.

They had sent an email to their two children and close friends, in which they said goodbye.

It did not explicitly say they were going to kill themselves, but they were inundated with fond responses.

Tai Altman said: “After Dad was diagnosed, mum was always adamant that she could not, and would not, live without him.

“She was brave enough and had conviction in her love for him to make what some people might consider the ultimate sacrifice.”

His father, born in Cape Town in South Africa, had been an RE teacher in Leighton Buzzard before retiring.

He met Tamar, originally from New York, in the UK, and after five years of friendship they became a couple.

thisisoxfordshire: Raphael and Tamar Altman pictured with their children Tanyah, six, and Tai, nine, in 1980

They had two children, Tai and Tanyah, and ran a glass painting business for 10 years.

Mr Altman carried on having chemotherapy and radiotherapy after his diagnosis until last year.

As a right-to-die advocate, he gave evidence to the 2012 Government commission on assisted dying.

Mrs Altman had struggled with her weight from the age of 11.

Mr Altman, who at one time worked at Waterperry Gardens a few miles from his village and studied as a mature student at Oxford’s Keble College, wrote an article in 1999 for Radiance Magazine, a journal for larger women, in which he praised his wife’s shape, calling her his “fat Aphrodite”.

At an inquest at Oxfordshire Coroners’ Court on Tuesday, assistant coroner Peter Clark said the couple had made a careful decision to end their lives in a “dignified” way.

Recording verdicts of suicide, he said: “It is clear they intended to die together as they lived together.”

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