A ‘prime suspect’ in the case of a possible serial killer who could be behind a series of attacks on elderly couples has been named in a confidential report.
A senior coroner’s officer published a 179-page report claiming there were significant similarities between the deaths of couples across North West England between 1996 and 2011.
The incidents, which spanned Cheshire, Manchester and Cumbria, involved a husband seemingly going beserk and viciously attacking his wife before taking his own life.
Coroners recorded each incident as murder-suicide, but now Stephanie Davies, senior coroner’s officer with Cheshire police, says at least two cases could be the work of a serial killer because of strong similarities across the incidents.
A male suspect, who lives in the north, is identified by name in the report, but cannot be named for legal reasons and strongly denies involvement, The Times reports.
The incidents, which spanned Cheshire, Manchester and Cumbria, involved a husband seemingly going beserk and viciously attacking his wife before taking his own life
Eileen and Kenneth Martin, who were both found dead at their home in Davyhulme, Greater Manchester, on November 10, 2008
Eileen and Kenneth Martin’s home on Broadway in Davyhulme, Greater Manchester, where they were both found dead on November 10, 2008
Detectives concluded Howard had killed Bea and taken his own life. The crucial piece of evidence which pointed to this was a ‘suicide note’ left on a yellow pad on the sideboard next to where the bodies lay
Sources said the cases had gone ‘right to the top’ of Cheshire police since the report was revealed.
It comes after families rubbished claims that their elderly relatives died at the hands of a serial killer – and insisted their gruesome and violent deaths were murder-suicides, as first recorded.
Who are the victims of the potential serial killer?
Howard and Beatrice Ainsworth were found dead at home in Wilmslow, Cheshire on April 28, 1996.
Mr Ainsworth, 79, apparently bludgeoned, Beatrice, 78 – known as Bea – with a hammer, before stabbing her with a breadknife. He then supposedly suffocated himself with a plastic bag. A suicide note, assumed to have been from Mr Ainsworth, said he had ‘given her some sleeping tablets’.
But no sedatives were found in either of them following toxicology tests and Mr Ainsworth had ‘unexplained bruises’, possibly from being forcibly suffocated, on his lips.
Donald and Auriel Ward died on November 26, 1999 at home in Wilmslow. Mrs Ward, 68, was hit with a ceramic hot water bottle and stabbed with the shards. Mr Ward, 73, slit his throat and stabbed himself.
Eileen and Kenneth Martin died in their garage in Manchester in November 2008. Mrs Martin, 76, had severe head injuries and cuts to her wrists and neck. Mr Martin, 77, cut his throat, slashed his wrists and hanged himself.
Stanley Wilson, 92, and his wife Peggy, 89, died in February 2011. Both were found dead in their bedroom in Kendal, Cumbria. Mrs Wilson had been bludgeoned in the head and face and had knife wounds to her neck.
Mr Wilson is said to have stabbed himself in the neck.
Violet Higgins, 76, was apparently murdered by husband Michael, 59, at their Manchester home in February 2000. Mr Higgins, who had Parkinson’s disease, is believed to have beaten his wife with a rolling pin in bed and stabbed her with scissors.
The son-in-law of one of the deceased couples has insisted his father-in-law ‘just crumbled under the pressure’ of having to look after his dementia-suffering wife and due to the stress from his own battle with prostate cancer.
Relatives have insisted that mental health was the reason for the deaths, not a serial killer as is now suggested.
Eileen and Ken Martin, aged 76 and 77 respectively, were found dead in their Manchester home in 2008.
Former printer Eileen had endured blows to the head, potentially from a hammer, and suffered cuts to her neck and wrists, while retired steel worker Kenneth is believed to have cut his own throat and wrists and hanged himself.
They were discovered in the garage at home in Davyhulme, Manchester.
Kenneth was suffering from prostate cancer while looking after Eileen, who had dementia. He had told his daughter he could not manage anymore the night before his death. It had been reported as a mercy killing.
The couple’s son-in-law Dennis Tong, 63, who found the couple, say relatives are 100 per cent certain Mr Martin was responsible for the death of his wife, and himself.
He said: ‘Ken had been struggling for a few years. He just crumbled under the pressure.
‘He must have done it on the spur of the moment.
‘We know Ken was going downhill. He was a proud man and would not take any help from anybody. We suggested putting Eileen in a home and he just refused. I think he just crumbled under the pressure.’
Mr Martin had spoken of his wish not to let his wife become a burden on their children if he died first, telling his daughter ‘when it’s my time to go, it’ll be her time to go’.
Now Mrs Davies’s report claims Eileen’s injuries were not consistent with a mercy killing.
Doubts were raised over whether Kenneth, who was frail could not walk easily, was physically capable of carrying out the killing.
Police confirmed they are reviewing the report. Ex-North West chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said: ‘The concerns raised in this report need to be taken very seriously.’