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John and Lorna McCadden were quiet and private, but it was clear to their neighbours that the couple in Suite 105 loved each other tenderly.

And so many yesterday said they believed that when Mr. McCadden ended his wife's life, then his own, it was the final act of compassion from a man threatened with the loss of his only companion.

On Tuesday, he entered the transition care unit at the Penticton Regional Hospital. Left alone with his wife, he pulled out a handgun and shot her, then turned the gun on himself. Staff said minutes before he was seen holding her hand.

Mrs. McCadden, 80, had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Hospital officials said she had begun suffering from dementia in August and she was waiting to be transferred to long-term care.

Only weeks earlier, Mr. McCadden, 77, had three mini-strokes.

"He felt there was no way out any more and so he didn't know if there was anybody else to look after her because he might pass away," said Lawrence Isaac, the couple's landlord.

"It was out of compassion."

A day before the shootings, he became frustrated because he couldn't remember how to use the lock on his door.

Four or five years ago, Mrs. McCadden's health declined sharply, although Mr. Isaac didn't know exactly what her illness was. Her husband, a tall, thin man, took on the role of housekeeper and cook.

"John spent his whole time looking after her, you really could see his life was focused on her," said Edna Hills, who co-owns the couple's building. "He had no time to make the place fancy. They never really unpacked."

The couple lived in a modest apartment. There were no family portraits mounted, or pictures of children or grandchildren. There were never any visitors, neighbours said.

Signe Hansen, a four-year resident in the same three-storey building, said the couple rarely spoke to the other seniors in the complex, but she often saw Mr. McCadden doting on his wife and helping her into the elevator.

"He was a gentleman," she said.

The murder-suicide stunned hospital staff, who had quickly come to know the couple. Mr. McCadden had visited his wife every day since she was admitted Aug. 1. He was often seen holding her hand affectionately.

They snuggled and ate lunch in the hospital cafeteria, hospital coroner Mike Barrett said.

Mr. McCadden spoke with a thick Irish accent and often talked about his tours in Australia, serving with the armed forces.

"I knew that he was a marksman," Mr. Isaac said, adding he was not aware that the resident owned a gun.

The fact Mr. McCadden was able to bring a concealed firearm into the hospital prompted questions about the facility's security.

Even so, Michelle Kadatz, an undergrad nurse working on the third floor when the gunshots went off just down the hall, remained unconcerned about security.

"The nursing staff responded to a very horrible situation and they did the best that they can," she said.

Peggy Cluff, a commissionaire at the hospital who takes security shifts at the front desk, said the violent incident didn't worry her either.

"I've been a guard for 10 years and I've never been afraid or scared," she said. "This to me is isolated."

Still, Joyce Shelswell, a 17-year nurse at the hospital, was rattled.

"A staff member could have been hurt. I think we need more security, but I don't think to such a dramatic extent," she said. "I mean maybe you can start doing metal detection."

Interior Health Authority CEO Murray Ramsden said counsellors had been called in yesterday to work with witnesses who may have been traumatized.

Penticton Mayor Jake Kimberley said there are no immediate plans to increase security as the shooting is considered "a very isolated incident.

"It's a case of total shock of course for this to happen in your own community. I can't read into the gentleman's mind, but it indicates to me that he saw no hope," Mr. Kimberley said.

RCMP said yesterday they believe that the couple did not have family living in Canada and that the nearest next of kin is in England.

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