I'm lucky: man who helped mom die

27 November 2011 - 04:08 By BIÉNNE HUISMAN
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THIS is the first picture of Professor Sean Davison outside the home in New Zealand where he is under house arrest for helping his terminally ill mother end her life.

The South African academic was fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet immediately after being sentenced to five months' house arrest by the Dunedin High Court on Wednesday.

The bracelet will confine him to a friend's three-bedroom home in Dunedin - the city where his 85-year-old mother tried to starve herself to death before finally succumbing to a morphine overdose in 2006.

Davison said he had to adjust the anklet while tossing and turning during the first night spent in his new "prison" this week.

"I couldn't sleep. I felt a roller coaster of emotions. Initially I didn't know if I was happy or disappointed. Then I realised I had been lucky, it could have been worse, I could have been sent to jail. The anklet is going to take some time to get used to. I had to constantly adjust it when I turned over," he told the Sunday Times.

The 50-year-old scientist made headlines last year when he was arrested for giving his ailing mother, Dr Patricia Davison (also known as Ferguson), a lethal dose of morphine. He was charged with attempted murder, and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assisted suicide.

Davison wrote a book, Before We Say Goodbye, about caring for his mother in her final weeks. New Zealand authorities started an investigation after a copy of the original manuscript - in which his mother's death was described - was leaked to them.

His sister Mary had tried to stop the publication of the book through court orders. Now it has emerged that she may have helped prompt his arrest.

"We know it was Mary who leaked the manuscript to the police and media. All families have their problems," said Davison's partner, Raine Pan.

Pan looked tired during an interview at their home in Pinelands, Cape Town, on Thursday morning. Davison had telephoned her in the early hours to break the news of his house arrest. "Sean now has a criminal record. But to us that is a badge of honour for helping his mother," she said.

Said Davison: "I am staying with the brother of my best friend in Dunedin. He lives alone with his cat, Putter. I think Putter and I are going to become the best of friends."

Dunedin is where Davison obtained a doctorate at the University of Otago before moving to Cape Town.

"I need to establish some kind of daily routine. I am so used to daily exercise such as mountain walks or swimming; I'm just going to have to find ways of getting exercise in the confines of this small property."

Davison works at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and has been lauded for his ground-breaking contributions to fighting crime in SA.

He has been separated from Pan, and their sons Flynn and Finnian, since October when he left for the trial.

He is concerned about the safety of his young family and longs to be with them.

"It is my duty to be there for my family ... I feel so helpless. South Africa does have a crime problem and it scares me to think of them alone."

Davison heads the DNA Forensics Laboratory at UWC. He will resume his duties after his sentence, and hopes to launch an "Innocent Project" that tests the DNA of prisoners to see if they have been wrongfully prosecuted.

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