Worle man killed wife with knife and claw hammer as she sipped tea in bed

PUBLISHED: 09:22 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:35 11 May 2017

The coronor concluded Mrs Furneaux's death was an unlawful killing.

The coronor concluded Mrs Furneaux's death was an unlawful killing.

Archant

A 70-year-old Worle woman died after being beaten with a hammer and stabbed in the neck by her husband of 50 years because he could not cope when her illness meant she stopped helping with the housework.

Forensic Investigators were at the couple's house in Pilgrim's Way for days.Forensic Investigators were at the couple's house in Pilgrim's Way for days.

Ann Furneaux was killed with a claw hammer and kitchen knife as she drank tea in bed, before her 74-year-old husband Edward killed himself by driving his car into a tree later that same day.

An inquest at Flax Bourton Coroners Court yesterday (Wednesday) heard how police were called to Kewstoke Road – between Kewstoke and Weston-super-Mare – on January 19 after Mr Furneaux’s wrecked car was found.

Investigations later showed he had not been wearing a seatbelt when he crashed into a tree at 60-65mph, and there was no evidence he had tried to brake.

However, when officers went to the couple’s home in Pilgrims Way to inform Mrs Furneaux of her husband’s death, they found her body.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Richard Kitchener said: “She was found in her bedroom, in her bed. There was a tray on her lap – it would appear that she had been halfway through a cup of tea.

“On the bed, by her left knee, there was a claw hammer – there was evidence of blood and hair on the claw hammer.

“In the bathroom there was a large kitchen knife in the sink, there had been an attempt to clean that knife.”

Mrs Furneaux, who was a retired auxiliary nurse, had become increasingly unwell in the months leading up to her death, as she suffered from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The inquest was told Mr Furneaux, a retired accountant for British Railway, had complained to friends he felt overwhelmed and stressed as more of the household responsibilities fell onto his shoulders.

He had also visited his GP, Dr Patel, to get help with trouble sleeping, but denied having a low mood. Mr Furneaux was prescribed a short course of medication.

Statements from friends Sylvia and Michael Phillips said Mr and Mrs Furneaux would often go away for long trips in their motor-home, but Mr Furneaux had struggled as his wife became more ill.

Mr Phillips’ statement added: “He was struggling to cope. He wasn’t used to doing all of these chores.”

A statement from Mrs Phillips said Mr Furneaux told her he was ‘getting to the end of his tether’ and he ‘wasn’t sure what to do for the best’.

The court was also told the couple slept in separate bedrooms but a statement neighbour Paul Bate said Mr Furneaux was kept awake by his wife’s coughing. Mr Furneaux told Mr Bate it was ‘driving him mad’.

Medical evidence revealed Mrs Furneaux died of a stab wound to the neck and multiple skull fractures, while Mr Furneaux suffered multiple chest wounds. He also had cuts to his wrist which the medical examiner did not believe to be connected to the incident, but appeared to be self-inflicted.

DC Kitchener said: “We think that it’s quite likely that Mr Furneaux killed his wife and then following her death, drove his car away from Pilgrims Way, where he’s drove it into a tree, possibly with the intention of killing himself.”

Coroner Peter Harrowing came to a narrative conclusion for Mr Furneaux, and said: “Mr Furneaux died of multiple injuries following a road traffic collision.”

Mr Harrowing concluded Mrs Furneaux’s death was an unlawful killing.

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