Inquest Into Isle Of Wight Couple's Deaths
An inquest's heard how a mother who was murdered by her husband who then killed himself claimed she'd been having an affair with a teenager.
Barry Harrison, 47, and his wife Amanda, 34, were found inside the property in Regal Court, High Street, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, with their children nearby on August 9 last year.
Mrs Harrison suffered neck injuries and is believed to have been strangled with a piece of washing line found by her body and Mr Harrison was found hanging.
Their two sons, Owen, aged three, and Aiden, five, were found in the flat by Pat Cannon, who works as a manager for the block of flats and who had been asked by her sister, Maureen Cannon, to visit the apartment.
The boys told her that "Mummy and Daddy are asleep.''
The inquest heard that the children had been in the flat with their dead parents for at least 24 hours.
The hearing at Newport Coroner's Court was told that the couple, who met while working at the Peugeot car plant in Coventry, Warwickshire, had moved to the Isle of Wight after they were made redundant and had their home in Bedworth repossessed.
They both suffered from depression brought on by their financial difficulties, the inquest heard.
The hearing was told they had both found work on the island, Mr Harrison as a fruit picker on a tomato farm and his wife as a sales supervisor at a Co-op store in Bembridge.
Maureen Cannon, who had known the couple from when she lived in Coventry but who had lived on the island since 2003, said that Mrs Harrison had told her that she had started an affair with a 19-year-old customer at her shop called Alex Harmer-Wood.
"Amanda surprised me, she told me she was having an affair.
"She had a tattoo AH and she was happy those were his initials as well as her own.
"She had been seeing him for two weeks. I was very surprised. She felt he lifted her up.''
The inquest heard that in the weeks before the deaths, the couple had been experiencing marital problems and had decided to spend three weeks apart.
Mrs Harrison and the children had gone to stay with Maureen Cannon and Mr Harrison had gone to visit his family in Coventry.
During his absence, Mrs Harrison had allowed Mr Harmer-Wood to stay in their flat in Regal Court with his girlfriend.
Mr Harrison returned early from Coventry and found the couple asleep in his bed at the flat, the inquest heard.
It was a couple of days after this that Maureen Cannon asked her sister to check on the Harrisons after Mrs Harrison failed to answer her phone.
Pat Cannon told the hearing that after she entered the flat she realised something was wrong as she tried to enter the bedroom.
"When I touched the door I could feel a dead weight.
"I looked up and could see the cord and I could see a pair of shoes through the door and I knew what was what. I was pretty scared.''
Pat Cannon added that the couple had been "embarrassed'' by their financial difficulties which had led them to be in arrears in their rent.
She said that Mr Harrison had lost a lot of weight prior to the incident.
"He was a hard-working guy, he was absolutely devastated about what he thought was going on with Amanda.
"I would like to go away from this thinking it was a moment of madness, a split second of madness.
"For Amanda, she was a good mum. They were proud people.''
The inquest heard that the Harrisons were last seen on the Saturday evening, August 7, and it was thought the children could have been left on their own for up to nearly two days following their parents' death.
Pc Elizabeth Manning, who was one of the first officers to arrive at the flat, said that flat was in disarray.
"There was a lot of mess on the floor of the whole flat, in the kitchen area the fridge was open, there was a red substance smeared on the dining table which looked like jam, a white substance on the floor of the kitchen, a bleach bottle lying on its side, bits of biscuits lying on the carpet.''
"The children told me they had been making potions and having fun.
"The children appeared happy and had been playing.''
Detective Constable Stephen Legg, of Hampshire and Isle of Wight police, said:
"It would appear the two children had been left to their own devices for some significant time.
"Foodstuffs were scattered and smeared over the floors and furniture and the lower shelves of the fridge had been cleared and were empty.''
"The children have said that they couldn't wake Mum and Dad up, they said Mum was lying down and Dad was asleep standing up.''
He added that Aiden had demonstrated how his father had put his hand over his mother's face.
Mr Harmer-Wood said in a statement read to the inquest that he had not had a sexual relationship with Mrs Harrison.
He said that he had gone for a drink with her but when he found out her age, that she was married and had children, he was not interested in taking things further.
"She began to text me several times a day saying I want to be with you.
"I began to be worried Amanda was stalking me.''
He said that Mrs Harrison had offered to allow him and his girlfriend, Jasmin Tuermis, who was visiting from Germany, to stay at Regal Court.
Mr Harrison's sister Carol Moreton told the inquest that he had been hurt badly in his first marriage, from which he had a son, Lee, and daughter, Stacey.
She said that he overcame this when he met Amanda and "fell in love''. She added that he had reversed his vasectomy in order to have children with Amanda.
She said that her brother became distant from her when he started to get into financial difficulties and moved to the Isle of Wight without informing her.
She described him as a determined person with a strong work ethic who doted on his children.
She said that when he came to stay with her during the separation from his wife, Mr Harrison would go for long walks until late night and was very depressed at the thought of losing his wife and children.
His daughter, Stacey Harrison, said:
"He spent a lot of time crying and being upset."
She added that when he left to return home:
"He seemed more on edge than I had seen him.
"He didn't seem as upset, he seemed to have made his mind up.
"He said he wasn't sure if he could cope losing the boys in the same way he had lost me and Lee years before.''
Gemma Hendricksen, who lived in the flat below the Harrisons, said that she heard distressed crying coming from the flat at about midday on Saturday, August 7.
Describing what she heard, she said:
"I heard a child's voice saying 'Mummy, please stop it, I don't want to take it'.
"This was said four or five times, then I heard a second child's voice, a younger child's voice, no speech, just distressed crying, screaming, which went on for a couple of minutes.
"Then I heard a woman's voice, this is difficult to describe but it was an exasperated cry, almost as if she was in pain.
"It was a medium pitch sound you do not hear every day, it lasted for a split second only.
"I keep thinking about it, it was not a cry of pleasure at all.''
At 1.30pm on Sunday, August 8, another neighbour, Jayne Thorpe, spoke to the children through the flat intercom and they told her that their parents were asleep, the inquest heard.
Pauline Clark, a friend of Maureen Cannon, said that Aiden demonstrated to her after the deaths how his father had attacked his mother.
"He demonstrated with me the action of being grabbed by the throat, his Mummy was trying to push away his Daddy.''
"He also said 'Daddy had blood on his face'.''
The inquest heard that Mrs Harrison was found with her husband's blood on her hands as she had scratched his face.
A post-mortem examination found that Mr Harrison had taken an overdose of painkillers but had died of hanging.
Mr Harrison had left a suicide note which was not read to the court.
A cause of death of strangulation was given for Mrs Harrison.
Hugh Calloway, assistant deputy coroner for the Isle of Wight, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for Mrs Harrison and suicide for her husband.
"Unfortunately fate dealt a fairly cruel hand to Barry and Amanda.
"They seemed incredibly happy when they moved to the Isle of Wight, it seemed to be the fresh start they both needed but Barry found it very difficult to find work that paid well.''
Mr Calloway said that Mr Harrison's divorce, which had followed his first wife having an affair, had haunted him.
"He had a fear of history repeating itself with his wife Amanda.
"This, combined with the money problems, appears to have put an impossible strain on Barry and the marriage.
"The actions which followed appear to be totally out of character for Barry and we will never fully understand why a person like Barry, who on the surface appears to be a decent hard-working person, would behave in the way he did.''