A WIFE shot dead her husband as he slept and then took her own life, an inquest heard.
Wealthy Paul Laithwaite, 64, and his wife of more than 40 years, Jean Laithwaite, 65, were discovered dead at their home of Deeside House, Deeside Lane, Sealand, on Sunday, January 17.
The inquest at Flint heard mother of three Mrs Laithwaite had been struggling with depression following the death of her beloved father, Frank Foster, just over a year before the couple died. She had been given repeat prescription drugs and became increasingly religious in the final months of his life.
Post-mortem reports by Dr Paul Johnson showed Mrs Laithwaite had taken an “excessive” amount of temazepam and she had drunk more than double the legal drink drive limit before her body was found in the bath.
Medical history reports showed Mr Laithwaite suffered from diabetes, with evidence given of him having lapsed into diabetic comas and suffered blackouts. Mrs Laithwaite had a history of using anti-depressants, most recently prescribed to help her following the death of her father.
Sgt Gareth Griffiths, of Deeside Police Station, was called to the scene shortly before 6pm on the day the bodies were found. Close family members had realised something was wrong as the couple were not answering the door and the house was unusually dark.
After entering the house, Sgt Griffiths was pointed in the direction of the bathroom by the couple’s son, Jeremy, and discovered Mrs Laithwaite’s body in the bath.
Sgt Griffiths said: “I opened the door and saw the body of a naked female. She had her back towards me and was leaning forwards.”
He added that water filled probably less than a third of the bath.
Sgt Griffiths then entered the master bedroom and discovered Mr Laithwaite’s body, which had suffered a severe head wound. There was a shotgun on the floor.
Sgt Griffiths added the house was secure, helping rule out a third party involvement.
Anna Ellison, senior forensic scientist, had visited the house shortly after the body had been discovered and said she found a Bible on a table in the kitchen.
This contained a white card with the message “my soul is full of sorrow to the point of death” and had Jean’s name written on it.
Also on the table was a bottle containing tablets and another empty bottle of temazepam.
Ms Ellison said the evidence indicated Mr Laithwaite had been asleep when he was killed.
She said: “There is no indication of a violent struggle. It is my opinion he was shot as he lay in bed.”
Ms Ellison said the presence of bloodspots on Mrs Laithwaite’s clothing that matched her husband’s DNA meant there was “strong scientific evidence” of her being responsible for his death.
Dr Philip Seaman told the inquest the weapon used to shoot Mr Laithwaite was a Browning 12 bore shotgun. He said he believed that although two shots had been fired, the second had been inadvertent from the recoil of the first shot.
When asked by North East Wales coroner John Hughes if the use of the weapon could have been an accident, Mr Seaman said he believed wilful action and force had to be applied when the gun was fired.
The death of the couple came just over a year after Mrs Laithwaite’s father had died in December 2008 while in his 90s.
Close family friend Richard Coe, of Anglesey, said Mr Foster’s death was something Mrs Laithwaite had struggled to come to terms with. The couple had lived with her father for 20 years and Mrs Laithwaite was his only child.
Mr Coe and his wife Judith visited the couple the day before the two bodies were found and had been aware of them feeling down when they met the previous week.
He said: “At that time of year quite a lot of people get down so we made arrangements to see each other more regularly.”
Mr Coe said he knew Mr Laithwaite had been quite stressed about a financial issue but that had now been resolved.
He added he knew Mr Laithwaite owned a shotgun, but he told the inquest it had only been used by his friend for clay pigeon shooting. He said he had never been aware of Mrs Laithwaite holding it and did not think she knew how to use it.
Mr Coe added: “They were both very close and did everything together. Their marriage was a good thing. Like all marriages it had its ups and downs, but it was a good, solid marriage.”
Evidence was read on behalf of Rev Canon Tudor Griffiths, rector of St Bartholomew’s, Sealand, where the couple were parishioners. He said the Laithwaites had traditionally attended church only at Christmas and Easter, but following the death of Mrs Laithwaite’s father they had become regular worshippers. Mrs Laithwaite had been confirmed in September 2009 with Paul's support.
He said Mr Laithwaite had expressed concerns about his health, but was shocked when he heard of the deaths.
The Laithwaites and two of their sons, Jeremy and Quentin, ran the Deefab business at Deeside Industrial Estate. Another son, Marcus, lives in Sydney, Australia, but attended the inquest with his brothers.
Mrs Laithwaite was an active member of the Lady Taverners and had been involved in the Parent Teachers’ Association at Abbeygate College, Chester.
Mr Hughes described the double death as a “mind numbing tragedy” and said there was “not a shred of evidence” to support any conjecture about problems in their marriage.
He concluded Mr Laithwaite had been unlawfully killed by shotgun trauma to the head. Mrs Laithwaite had taken her own life through alcohol and temazepam toxication, with her airways obstructed as she lay in the bath.
In closing, Mr Hughes said to the family: “You have my total sympathy and you have behaved yourselves with dignity and compassion today. I hope the conclusion today will give you some point of closure.”
Speaking after the inquest, North Wales Police Det Insp Alun Oldfield said: “No other persons have ever been sought in relation to their deaths. The conclusion of this investigation has been the coroner’s inquest today.”
A statement issued by the family and close friends revealed they were “still trying to come to terms” with the double tragedy.
They added: “The family wishes to thank the coroner, North Wales Police and associated experts for the thoroughness of their investigation and the sensitivity in which it was conducted.
“Paul and Jean Laithwaite from the time they first met were inseparable. The family takes comfort in knowing that they continue to be together as they would have wished.”
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