‘I was branded a murderer’ – Jehova’s Witness tells of ‘hostile’ treatment after wife bled to death over blood transfusion refusal

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GORDON Leighton married his first wife, Yvonne, in 1991, and she gave birth to a baby boy in January 1993.

Mrs Leighton, 28, had a normal pregnancy and delivery, but problems developed in the following days.

She was told she needed to undergo a common gynaecological operation to treat her bleeding after the birth of her son.

During her hospital stay she, along with Leighton, signed a form at the then Sunderland General Hospital stating she was not to receive a blood transfusion.

But Mrs Leighton soon began haemorrhaging and doctors had to stand by helplessly as she bled to death in front of them.

She died when her son was just two weeks old.

When asked by the court his view on what happened, Leighton said: “I respected her decision and stood by it.”

Mrs Leighton’s fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses were so anxious to ensure hospital staff complied with her wishes that a legal representative was sent to the hospital to make sure the transfusion was not carried out.

The tragedy made national headlines.

Leighton said: “At the coroner’s report at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, I was chased down the street by the press with cameras and things didn’t settle down.

“The press found out where I lived and were sort of following me around, jumping out of bushes, knocking on the door with a cheque book for a story.”

Leighton said his neighbourhood became “very, very hostile” when word spread about what had happened to his wife and he was branded a “murderer”.

He said: “They were doing things like scratching my car, letting the tyres down, putting notes through the door saying ‘murderer’.

“It was very, very emotional to have a young child and have all this on top. I had a lot of assistance, a lot of people from the Jehovah’s Witness community were there for me, to help me.

“I was inexperienced with a two-week old baby, the ladies really helped.”