Elderly Sweethearts Sought in Manhunt Die 48 Hours Apart

Ralph 'Terry' Gibbs said he abducted his sweetheart from nursing home out of love
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2022 11:32 AM CST
Their 15-Year Love Survived Dementia— and a National Manhunt
An elderly couple holding hands.   (Getty Images/gyro)

An elderly couple's love story, which included an escape from a nursing home and a mad dash across Australia, has come to a sad end—and not just with a conviction for unlawfully detaining a mentally ill person. Ralph "Terry" Gibbs, 80, pleaded guilty to deprivation of liberty and endangering the life of his partner of 15 years, 84-year-old Carol Lisle, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and dementia, on Feb. 9. A month earlier, he'd driven 3,000 miles from Queensland to Western Australia, where a goddaughter had moved Lisle to a nursing home over concerns that Gibbs could no longer care for her, reports the New York Times. Gibbs then helped his "sweetheart" to his car and drove off for home.

Authorities launched a national manhunt before locating the couple two days later in a remote desert community near Western Australia’s border with the Northern Territory, per the Guardian. Both were dehydrated and Lisle had to be airlifted back to the west coast for medical treatment, per ABC Australia. Gibbs—who was last week handed a seven-month suspended sentence and a two-year restraining order that kept him from seeing Lisle—said it was for love. Because of coronavirus restrictions, he'd been able to visit Lisle only four times since her move to Mandurah last March. And at each visit, "when I would leave to go home, she would say, 'Can I come with you?'" Gibbs told the Guardian last week.

If he feared an end to the relationship, it was for good reason, as Lisle died Monday. Those close to her "believe the separation from her loved ones contributed to her death," a friend told ABC. Gibbs didn't have long to mourn. Forty-eight hours later, he was killed in a head-on collision in northern Queensland, per the Times. Before his death, he recalled what may have been the couple's last communication. As Lisle was loaded into the plane that would take her back to Perth, "I yelled out to her and everyone heard me say, 'love you sweetheart' and her eyes opened and she said, 'love you too,'" Gibbs told the Guardian. "That's the way we were all these years." (Read more Australia stories.)

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