Two friends of Denis Kenny Billesdon have told how he told them years later that he had smothered his elderly sister “to put her out of her misery” because he could not stand her pain.

They gave evidence at a Christchurch District Court depositions hearing where Billesdon, 71, faces a charge of murdering Nola Doreen Billesdon, 77, in February 2001.

Colin Slater, a friend for 20 years, said Billesdon told him in about 2004: “I’ve done a very stupid thing. I smothered my sister. I know I shouldn’t have done it. I couldn’t stand to see her suffer. I had to put her out of her misery.”

Slater told the hearing it was sometimes hard to take what Billesdon said seriously. “He’s flamboyant, exaggerates a bit.”

Christine Bamford, another friend, recalled a conversation about 2005 when he said his sister had cancer and he got a pillow and smothered her with it.

“He said he was not a murderer but couldn’t stand her pain.”

Billesdon’s wife, Helen, told of him returning to their home on the night Miss Billesdon died, February 18, 2001.

“I was in bed asleep. Dennis arrived home, turned the light on and said Nola had died.

“He didn’t seem to be upset but he was agitated and not making decisions about what to do next.”

Helen Billesdon suggested he phone an ambulance and hurry back to his sister’s house before the ambulance arrived.

She was shocked at the news of her sister-in-law’s death.

“Although she was on a lot of medication, I didn’t think she was at death’s door.”

Earlier crown prosecutor Chris Lange told the court Billesdon had spent the day with his sister on February 18, 2001, and then returned to her home in the evening ready to stay the night.

He said Billesdon administered liquid morphine and sleeping tablets to the woman and then went to her room about 8pm and put a pillow over her face.

He then fixed things in the room to make it look as though she had died in her sleep. He dialled 111 from his home three hours later.

Billesdon’s death was not thought to be suspicious at first, although the doctor would not sign the death certificate because he said no ailment was bad enough to cause death.

Dr William Kirkwood detailed a long list of health problems faced by Billesdon, including five hospitalisations and one emergency department visit in the two months before her death. He requested a post mortem because he was not sure of the cause of death.

Helen Billesdon said the couple had looked after Billesdon during her health problems.

She also said Billesdon had wanted the contents of his sister’s will changed so that he would inherit the house and pass it on to his children. He took Billesdon to a lawyer so that the changes could be made.

The hearing has made fast progress today and has now adjourned to Wednesday to hear the remaining evidence before Margo McKay and Judith Smyth, Justices of the Peace.