Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

'Rosie should not have died alone'

Boatbuilder tells why he helped his chronically ill wife to commit suicide, and calls for legalised euthanasia.

Evans Mott outside the High Court yesterday after being discharged without conviction over the death of his wife, Rosie. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Evans Mott outside the High Court yesterday after being discharged without conviction over the death of his wife, Rosie. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Rosie Mott looks into the camera and says: "I'm making this movie so that nobody is under the illusion that I've been coerced into what I've done.

"Or I've been murdered, or for that matter, committed suicide. I am euthanising myself because I ... I'm going to tell you a story, this sad tragic story of my upcoming demise."

Tears stream down Evans Mott's face as he watches this posthumous message. He's seen it only once before.

His wife was ravaged with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis, a degenerative condition for which there is no cure. Her frustration is clear to anyone who watches the video diary, as she describes how the tremors in her limbs were getting "shakier and shakier". Rosie could not heat meals in the microwave, or even touch her nose.

"Every morning I have yoghurt that I eat. Now I can't get the teaspoon in the yoghurt, then the teaspoon in my mouth. So I drink it. Pathetic," said Rosie. "It brings new meaning to the words a person can be their own worst enemy.

"Anyway, I don't know when I'm going to knock myself off but at some point, because I know that I'm not going to get any better, I will."

The video was filmed in August last year. The 55-year-old waited until the birth of a grandchild and spent a final Christmas with her family before making the decision to end her life.

She asked her husband, Evans, a master boat builder, to leave her alone in their Auckland home and he returned several hours later to find her dead. He was relieved she looked peaceful.

Later, the 61-year-old told the police everything: he helped his wife research suicide methods and assemble a kit with which she could kill herself.

He was later charged by police with assisting suicide - which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison - and pleaded guilty soon after. Yesterday, he was discharged without conviction.

"I've got no regrets ... Rosie did not allow herself to have self-pity. When she did, she would snap out of it. With MS, there is no reason why," said Evans.

"It's incurable, untreatable and degenerative. It does everything but bloody kill you, it's hideous. Rosie waited 4 years to see if there was some way to turn it around. But she was not prepared to lose control. That wasn't a life she wanted."

The couple had been together since the early 1980s and each had children from previous relationships, as well as a son of their own who is now in his 20s. They met in Australia and lived in Samoa for a time, before returning to New Zealand to raise their son.

Evans Mott is considered a skilled craftsman and spends long periods overseas building superyachts for billionaires including Graeme Hart's $100 million Ulysses and the Mirabella V, the world's largest single-masted vessel.

Before multiple sclerosis was diagnosed, Rosie was an A-grade student at the University of Auckland where she studied anthropology, psychology and sociology among other subjects.

However, her health woes started in August 2007 when she tripped over and broke her shoulder. The fracture took 18 months to heal, because she had undiagnosed osteoporosis. Even once she was healed, the pain continued. This was diagnosed as neuropathic pain, a condition where the body's nerves keep sending pain signals to the brain although the injury is healed. An MRI scan finally confirmed Rosie was suffering from multiple sclerosis, where the body's immune system attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The degenerative condition is irreversible and affects the ability of the brain to send signals to the body.

She was diagnosed with an aggressive form which caused her physical abilities to deteriorate rapidly.

Evans Mott agreed to help research suicide methods for his wife and assembled a kit in September last year. The couple were worried the attempt would fail and leave Rosie brain-dead. It was upsetting that she had to be left alone, as anyone in the room with her could face more serious criminal charges.

"For Rosie to be that sick and to die alone by her own hand, that's not right. Our family should have been around her to say goodbye."

As a result of the court case, Evans has become the reluctant public face of the campaign to legalise euthanasia.

He advocates that New Zealand should allow euthanasia by a medical professional, as in some Scandinavian countries, and subject to tight controls.

"Imagine if you had a dog which was old, can hardly walk and in constant pain. The SPCA would charge you with animal cruelty. If you can be merciful to an animal and put them down, why does society say no when it's a family member? The system is flawed."

Evans rejects the assertion of those who oppose moves to legalise euthanasia.

"I have the right to choose for me and equally those people have the right to choose for themselves. Just as I have no right to choose for them"

These were supposed to be the golden years for Evans and Rosie. After years of studying anthropology and archaeology, Rosie was going to visit the places she had read about while Evans worked on boatyards in the Mediterranean.

Her chronic illness, death and the subsequent court case put an end to those plans.

"We lost the next 20 years, our 20 years. It was our time that was robbed from us," said Evans.

"I'm not bitter. But this is an important question that society needs to think about. Because nobody is immune."

- NZ Herald

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