Euthanasia prof starts new life after wedding

07 October 2012 - 02:06 By CAROL COETZEE
HAPPY DAY: Sean Davison with his new bride Raine Pan and sons Flynn, 4, and Finnian, 2 Picture: CAROL COETZEE
HAPPY DAY: Sean Davison with his new bride Raine Pan and sons Flynn, 4, and Finnian, 2 Picture: CAROL COETZEE

South African academic Sean Davison has emerged from the trauma of being jailed for feeding his elderly mother a lethal dose of morphine to start a new chapter in his life.

Davison, 51, and his bride Raine Pan, 39, have returned to SA from their honeymoon in China after tying the knot at a traditional wedding with 80 friends and family, some of whom came from London, Paris, New Zealand and SA.

Guests could not hold back the tears as the couple publicly declared their commitment with the words: "I will love you and will stay with you forever" - he in English and she in Chinese.

Davison, dressed in a crème tuxedo and a white top hat, added: "I found my yin. My wife, in you I discovered my perfect match, my closest friend and best adviser."

The couple, and their sons Finnian, 2, and Flynn, 4, were a picture of happiness - a far cry from the expressions they wore after our last encounter in May when Davison returned home to Cape Town after spending five months under house arrest in New Zealand.

He was convicted of the assisted suicide of his mother Patricia Ferguson, 85, after a leaked original manuscript of a book he wrote about her battle with cancer, Before We Say Goodbye, revealed he helped her take her own life in 2006 - a crime in New Zealand.

Finnian barely knew his father when he returned to SA earlier this year. Raine's face was etched with stress.

"There is not a day that I do not think of mom," Davison said at the time.

"She was a doctor and knew what was happening with her body and mind. I complied with her deepest wish because of my love for her. It would have been so great if she had met Raine.

"But hey, we're getting married in September in China. Why don't you join us," he said out of the blue.

The couple tied the knot on a day considered lucky in China, September 8. Then they set off on a honeymoon that took them on a tour to the Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven and the streets and cafes of Beijing.

Two days before the wedding Raine met her sister-in-law, Jo Bennett, a teacher from New Zealand, for the first time, and brother-in-law Dr Fergus Davison, a biochemist from London.

Davison was touched that they were there to support him.

The family were shaken during the euthanasia furore when Davison discovered that their sister, Mary Davison, a doctor from Australia, had, against the advice of Davison's publisher, sent his original manuscript - describing how he gave his mother morphine - to a newspaper.

Had it not been for a plea by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the courts in New Zealand on behalf of the professor in Forensic Science at the University of the Western Cape, he may well have had to serve a longer sentence.

The wedding started at the apartment of Raine Pan's parents, Qing Ping Pan, 70, and Kee Chen, 69.

The humble couple worked hard to provide a good education for their daughter and son, Li Pan, 43.

Raine Pan studied calligraphy and did a secretarial course after school in China, but wanted to learn to speak English.

She settled in Cape Town and met Davison eight years ago at a dancing school.

The bride, wearing a wide-skirt princess-Diana-style dress and perfect make-up offered guests dumplings, a Chinese ritual in which the groom and his family are given a treat before the formal wedding.

Then the couple and their guests boarded a bus to stop at spots around the city of Qingdao for wedding photographs. The first stop was a German Presbyterian Church.

Failing to hide his amusement, Davison said: "I don't know why the brides want this if none of them are actually Christians!" Soon there were several brides having their portraits taken.

"Where is my bride? It's like a beauty contest," said Davison.

"It is a lucky day to get married," said Raine Pan.

"Eight is the lucky number and every month has two lucky days."

For Davison a week later would have been better, but he obliged to make her happy, he said.

Firecrackers exploded and small cannons fired confetti when the couple arrived at the Garden Hotel where the ceremony took place.

Guests were seated at eight tables upon which eight dishes were served, including the delicacy sea cucumber.

During the ceremony, Davison took a deep bow as Raine Pan was given away by her father and their sons produced the rings.

The couple lit small candles in the shape of a heart and then it was time to celebrate with a sumptuous menu of prawns, lobsters, vegetables and whole fish.

Raine Pan changed into a red ball- gown to dance the tango with Davison.

The legal aspects of the wedding were finalised the next day at a registry office.

Back at home this week in Pinelands, Cape Town, the couple have finally put the euthanasia trial nightmare behind them and were blissfully happy.

Davison is to launch a new version of his book, which will include the chapter on the death of his mother.