IT has been 18 years since nuclear physicist Ray Spackman died, but his family still fondly remember where he spent his final days.

The grandfather-of-one was on Sobell House's ward for four days before his death in 1999, following a three-month struggle with bowel cancer.

His daughter Karen Spackman, who lives in Upton where her dad also lived, said: "It was obvious the chemo wasn't doing what it should. Our GP put us in touch with Sobell. He was only in there very shortly but the care he received was lovely. It's a very relaxed atmosphere - it almost felt like he was staying in a hotel. We would sit and watch the birds come and go outside."

She said her dad, who worked at Harwell Science and Innovation Centre, was not the type to indulge in a spa session but enjoyed his first ever jacuzzi bath at Sobell.

Staff also gave him cider and soda flavoured mouthwash as part of his hygiene routine, after they heard he was a fan of drinking cider.

The 67-year-old passed away in his sleep just days after his arrival, surrounded by his wife, daughter and son.

Seven years later his wife Lizzie Spackman died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but was unable to get into the ward at Sobell and had to spend her final days in hospital - an experience that her daughter described as 'traumatic' in comparison.

Miss Spackman, who works at the George and Dragon pub in Upton, said: "The difference in their deaths was incredible. Dad's was very calm and peaceful - he'd said his goodbyes and wanted to go off to sleep. Hospitals look after your health needs but at Sobell it's all-round wellbeing and care for the family, and they seemed to have more empathy.

"I'd never had an experience of a hospice before but the comparison of losing someone there to on the [hospital] ward was phenomenal."

She affectionately described her father as a 'mad scientist' who loved to play pub games and roam about in the countryside.

In January Miss Spackman reconnected with Sobell House for its annual winter walk around Blenheim Palace, and raised £600 for the Headington hospice thanks to her customers' generosity.

She said: "There were lots of donations and lots of people wrote on the Just Giving page saying it was a cause very dear to their heart. The fact that it's a local cause and it helps people with cancer - any of us could end up there."

The 50-year-old is now walking three miles a day with her dogs Bertie and Madge, and plans to support other charitable causes including this year's OX5 run organised by the Oxford Mail.