When spring arrives and the bluebells blossom Catherine Ignarski and her five siblings will return to a memory-filled childhood haunt with the ashes of their dead parents.
There, in beautiful countryside, they will open two urns and scatter together the earthly remains of a couple married for 64 years.
Devoted Angus and Margaret Mayer will be reunited forever through a peaceful act of love… not the bloody, desperate deeds that ended their lives so horrifically.
For last July Angus, 86, bludgeoned his wife to death with a bedside lamp.
He’d been caring for Margaret, 85, for four exhausting years as Alzheimer’s cruelly took her from him. His family warned social services he needed help but proud Angus, known as Gus, refused it.
Margaret was bludgeoned to death by her husband (Photo: Wales News Service)
And after killing Margaret in a “fog of fatigue” the retired salesman went to a Cardiff rail station and lay on the tracks in front of an oncoming train.
“Dad could not bear to see my mum suffering,” says Catherine, 56.
“Her Alzheimer’s progressed rapidly and he was caring for her day and night, washing her, dressing her, taking her to the toilet. And it wore him down.
“He was adamant Mum was not going into a home, but he was losing her to dementia.
“They had such a passion for life, but all the joy had gone. He thought ‘What is the point of life without Margaret? We’d better both go’. I just wish they hadn’t suffered so.”
Angus Mayor and his daughter Catherine Ignarski (Photo: Wales News Service)
Yet Gus did not die instantly, as he’d planned, beneath the wheels of the London to Swansea train.
His leg was crushed and was later amputated.
But police and rail staff rescued him from the tracks, as he confessed: “I’ve killed my wife. She has Alzheimer’s. I didn’t want her to suffer any more.
“I just want to die. Let me die.”
He lived for a further seven weeks before succumbing to septicaemia and organ failure – and after being charged with his wife’s murder.
“He was willing himself to die,” says Catherine. “It haunts me that Dad was being punished for his actions. I wish he’d succeeded in taking his life immediately because he suffered seven weeks of mental and physical torture.”
Margaret and Angus Mayor (middle) with their family (Photo: Wales news Service)
Catherine blames herself for failing to help her dad. The family also feel Gus and Margaret were victims of a social care system that is failing dementia sufferers and their carers.
The daughter adds: “I was never angry with my father – just immensely frustrated. Had we known how bad things had got for Dad perhaps we could have stopped it.”
Mum-of-two Catherine, a company secretary from Norfolk, grew up in Wales with sisters Ann, 63, and Sheena, 59, and brothers Stuart, 57, Ian, 60, and Andrew, 54.
Her parents were just 19 and 20 when they met working in a lab in South Wales.
Catherine says: “When Dad first asked her out she said no because she had to play cricket on Saturdays.
“He was intrigued – but Mum played hockey and football too. She loved sport and wouldn’t let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something because she was a woman.”
Margaret nd Angus Mayor’s Cardiff home (Photo: Wales news Service)
The couple wed in 1952. Gus was a talented salesman and Margaret became a tax inspector when the children were older.
Catherine recalls: “We had such a fun childhood. Mum had so much energy and was a real outdoors person. Dad loved fishing, gardening, history and archaeology.
“They’d go to concerts, entertain their many friends and play bridge – Mum even played at international level. Dad used to say every day was a blessing and he wanted to live to 100.
“But Mum, always so capable, started to become less confident about things she’d always done – like cooking. Looking back those were the early signs that she was losing her memories.”
Then in 2012 Margaret was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Catherine continues: “We accepted it and at first Dad seemed to take it in his stride. He almost seemed empowered by being Mum’s carer.
Cardiff train station after where Angus ended his life (Photo: Wales news Service)
«But it became obvious he was losing his spark. He was getting thin and exhausted. He was getting up to Mum two or three times in the night.
“He found it hard that his vivacious, brilliant, active wife had become confused and disorientated. That shared history of 64 years was slowly being deleted from her memory.”
Last February the family arranged for Margaret to attend a day centre twice a week to give Gus a break.
In July they tried to get him to accept more help from a carer but, Catherine says, social services said they would have to get consent from Gus and Margaret.
Catherine goes on: “When we told Dad he said ‘Actually Darling, I’m coping, I’m okay’. We were starting to worry that he might lose his temper out of sheer fatigue and a sense of hopelessness.
“So Andrew decided to write to him, explaining how proud we all were – but how worried he’d never reach that 100.
“It was a lovely letter, but on the very day Andrew was going to send it my sister Ann went round to Mum and Dad’s house and found the police there.”
Gus had been found on the rail track and had told one officer: “My wife suffers dementia and incontinence. She told me if I put her in a home she’d kill herself.
Margaret and Angus Mayor on their Wedding day (Photo: Wales news Service)
“I told her it would be quick then I’d throw myself under a train. But I couldn’t even do that right.”
And he later told a paramedic: “My wife took a lot of killing. I just wanted to suffocate her. There was a lot of blood.”
An inquest heard Margaret suffered eight “blunt force” injuries to her head and face.
Cardiff Council’s adult services manager told the hearing there was nothing to suggest she was in danger and, in hindsight, nothing would have been done differently.
Catherine says “There’s a sense of guilt, at not being able to prevent it, and frustration that social services could not act on our fears.
«They needed the consent of a carer who wasn’t functioning or able to accept he needed help. The system needs to change so that children can override that consent.
Father of six Angus Meyer (Photo: Wales news Service)
“Society needs to look at how we deal with dementia. And we all need to build a place in our lives for elderly relatives.”
Margaret and Gus were cremated separately, six weeks apart.
Catherine explains: “We needed time to say goodbye to Mum and give her all of our attention. But friends and family came to both services and they were full of love and memories.
“We wanted to focus on the life they had together, not their terrible deaths.
“Just as we will when we scatter their ashes together.”