Inquest Into Sunderland Couple's Death

13 January 2014, 17:58 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

A pensioner from Sunderland who said he heard voices in his head stabbed his wife to death before using the same knife to kill himself.

The inquest into the death of 79 year old James Stokoe, heard he had repeatedly spoken about harming his wife May, who was also 79, in the weeks leading up to the incident.

The couple, who had been married for 56 years, reportedly had a "turbulent, distant and unloving relationship and would go for a long period of time without speaking to each other''.

The police said they were discovered on the bed in the rear bedroom of their house with a knife next to Mr Stokoe.

Detective Chief Inspector Christina Barrett, of Northumbria Police, said following an investigation it appeared that Mr Stokoe, a retired blacksmith, had attempted to kill himself in the bedroom.

But having been disturbed by his wife, a former dinner lady, he proceeded to attack her, before going downstairs and out to the shed to sharpen the knife.

During this time Ms Barrett said Mrs Stokoe had barricaded herself into the bedroom but he returned and broke through the door and killed her before killing himself, with both dying from wounds to the neck.

The inquest at Sunderland Civic Centre heard that following a diagnosis of cancer and a failed suicide attempt a few months before, Mr Stokoe had begun to receive visits from mental health nurses and had talked about the thoughts he was having.

Ms Barrett told the coroner:
"James Stokoe described things like gremlins in his head telling him to do bad things, like causing his wife harm."

Before the deaths in May last year, the court also heard that some members of the family had started to hide items such as knives in the house from Mr Stokoe.

Sue Wilmott, a mental health nurse, had visited Mr Stokoe a number of times before the attack and said even though he had spoken of harming his wife, he had always qualified it with the assertion he would "never harm her for the world''.

But she also said he had stopped taking an anti-psychotic drug that he had been prescribed.

The couple lived in Hylton Castle Road, Sunderland.