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Government Postpones Deportation Of Frail 92-Year-Old Woman After Public Outcry

Myrtle Cothill’s daughter had previously told BuzzFeed News: “The government will have to handcuff me or kill me before they touch my mum.”

Originally posted on
Updated on

The government has agreed to postpone the deportation of a frail 92-year-old lady currently being cared for by her daughter following a massive public outcry.

Cothill's daughter has won a "stay of execution" after the Home Office temporarily suspended its plans to remove the 92-year-old from the UK. The deportation was planned for Tuesday. Her lawyer will now be lodging a fresh claim on her behalf this week.

Myrtle Cothill was brought to Britain in 2014 from Natal, South Africa, by her 66-year-old daughter, Mary Wills. She had previously flown to Britain to visit Wills every other Christmas, but after Wills was told by her friends that her mother's health had deteriorated, Wills decided to bring her to Britain on a visitor's visa.

Wills thought Cothill would be allowed to stay with her indefinitely as it had been the case that British nationals and those with indefinite leave to remain could be joined by parents or grandparents over 65 as long as they gave them accommodation and financial support – however, this law was changed in 2012.

At present elderly relatives can only come to the UK if the level of care they require can only be provided in the UK – so unless the care in their country is unavailable or more expensive than in the UK, they are not allowed to stay.

Wills described the health problems faced by Cothill on a petition posted by her lawyer:

Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and macular degeneration causing sight loss, Myrtle cannot walk unaided, has a chronic cough, poor vision, is hard of hearing and is experiencing increasing confusion. She is unable to care or cook for herself and relies on her daughter Mary for emotional and physical support: Mary helps her mother with her personal care, housework, cooking and shopping.

In spite of this, the government had planned to deport Cothill on 23 February.

This letter was originally sent to Wills' lawyer by the Home Office.

In an emailed statement at the time, Wills' solicitor, Jan Doerfel, said: "This is a heart-breaking situation for Myrtle and Mary who is looking after her. If Myrtle does not depart, she will be at risk not only of immigration detention but also of enforced removal."

He explained to BuzzFeed News that a fresh claim would require new evidence, which he was in the process of adducing – he had not been given a deadline by the Home Office when it last had direct contact with Cothill. His intention was to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

In December last year BuzzFeed News interviewed Wills. She said: "We're not over the feeling that there's going to be a knock at the door. They will have to handcuff me or kill me before they touch my mum."


The Home Office's decision to suspend Cothill's removal was not prompted by any specific legal proceedings. An earlier version of this post said the removal was postponed after a court order.

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alan White at

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