Husband murdered wife then stabbed himself through the heart

The couple lived on Stormont Road, where the tragedy took place

The couple lived on Stormont Road, where the tragedy took place

First published in News Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A man strangled his wife to death before fatally stabbing himself in the heart, a court heard.

Described by friends as inseparable, retired couple Douglas Morton, 61, and Gwendoline French, 73, known as Harry and Carol, were found dead in their home in Stormont Road, Battersea, on November 20, 2013.

The court heard how Mr Morton, a women’s fashion retailer, had been nursing Mrs French, a recruitment consultant, following a stroke in May 2013 that left her paralysed along her left side.

Noemie Bila, Mrs French’s carer, turned up to their home on November 20, only a week after Mrs French was released from hospital, and found there was no answer, the curtains were drawn and the lights were off.

Police found a note on the stairs, Mrs French in bed with ligature marks around her neck and Mr Morton in the bath with a ligature around his neck, stab wound to the chest and cuts to his wrist.

The note initially appeared to be written and signed by both Mr Morton and Mrs French, but multiple witnesses, including friends of Mr Morton’s, unanimously gave evidence the handwriting Mr Morton’s and not Mrs French who had been unable to use her writing hand following the stroke.

Westminster Coroner’s Court on Friday heard from Mr Morton’s brother and the couple’s friends that he had discussed going to Switzerland for what he called the ‘Zurich option’ in order to end Mrs French’s life.

Mr Morton, described as a meticulous organiser, also discussed his end of life care with multiple friends.

Mr Morton’s friend of 40 years, Bryan Black, saw Mrs French after her stroke described her as a fighter and said she was “very positive”.

When shown the note found in the couple’s house he said: “Carol was left-handed. There’s no way she would have could have written any of that.”

Another friend Jean King, who visited Mrs French in hospital following her stroke, said: “She was great. She was very strong. She really wanted to push on and recover as much as she could.”

The childless pair, who had been together almost 40 years, both took early retirement and spent their time travelling the world in a winnebago. The court heard however Mr Morgan suffered a break down in 2005, contemplated throwing himself off of a building or harming himself with a knife, and had sought medical help.

Detective Chief Inspector Dennis O’Connor, from the Metropolitan Police’s homicide team, said: “It was my conclusion Mr Morton killed himself and prior to doing so took the life of his wife. I believe he was the author of the suicide note and Carol did not have any part to play in that.”

Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “Everyone of their very many friends who have given evidence today have commented on Carol’s optimism and determination and commitment to improve and there has been no suggestion at all she wished to end her own life.

“It would appear from evidence, from several of Harry’s friends, that he had discussed with Carol the option of euthanasia given her new disabled state. But she was not in on this and had also declined being transferred to a nursing home in Scotland to receive care.

“I’m satisfied that Harry was the author of this note and no writing one this page was made by Carol.

“I am, however, satisfied so that I am sure that this note is evidence of Harry’s intention to take his own life.

“I am satisfied so that I’m sure that she was unlawfully killed by asphyxiation, first by strangulation then ligature to the neck.

“I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities this was not part of a suicide pact.”

She recorded a verdict of suicide for Mr Morton.

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