An elderly man who sparked a police manhunt when, acting out of love, he kidnapped his “sweetheart” from a West Australian aged care home has been killed in a car crash just two days after his partner died.
Ralph “Terry” Gibbs, 80, died on Wednesday morning when his vehicle hit a utility on the Bruce Highway south of Bowen in Queensland.
His death came 48 hours after his partner of 15 years, Carol Lisle, 84, died in the aged care facility south of Perth from Gibbs had removed her in early January.
Gibbs was driving back to his home in Queensland when involved in the crash. He had just found out about Lisle’s death. The driver of the second vehicle, a 60-year-old local man, was airlifted to hospital in a serious condition.
Gibbs’ daughter Rochelle Palmay said it was an accident.
“He had been on the road for long hours, he was told of her death while he was driving,” she said on Thursday. “I think he was emotionally tired and I don’t think he had slept enough.”
Gibbs was returning from Perth, where he had been handed a seven-month suspended prison sentence on Friday in Perth magistrates court after pleading guilty to unlawfully detaining a person with a mental illness.
Lisle, his long-term partner, had been suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Gibbs wheeled Lisle out the door of Mercy Place Mandurah in January and tried to drive her across Australia’s notoriously dangerous outback in heatwave conditions.
The couple was stopped an hour from the Northern Territory border and Lisle was flown to hospital. Gibbs was subsequently charged and issued a restraining order.
Palmay, who is one of Gibbs’ five surviving children and lives in New Zealand, said the pair had been inseparable for 15 years.
“They met at a ballroom, they spotted each other across the floor,” Palmay said. “Dad came up to Carol and asked her to dance and they never stopped dancing since.”
“They were such a beautiful couple, always social, always entertaining, a…