A RETIRED barber took his own life after suffocating his wife - who was experiencing declining mental health and hallucinations due to dementia - at the couple’s home, an inquest has concluded.
Malcolm Brown, 74, and wife Pauline, 73, were found dead by family members at their home on Lamb Lane, Monk Bretton, on July 8, 2020.
Pauline was in the couple’s bedroom floor in an ‘almost posed position’ with a pillow underneath her head and a sheet covering her, while Malcolm - a longstanding and respected town centre barber of more than 50 years - was in another bedroom with his arms crossed over his body.
He had a cluster of 12 needle marks on his thigh and post-mortem examinations showed evidence of brain damage and insulin in his blood, suggestive of an overdose.
The inquest at Sheffield’s Medico Legal Centre on Tuesday was told the couple had a ‘long and happy’ marriage that deteriorated due to Pauline’s declining mental health and Malcolm having an ‘aggressive’ cancerous tumour.
Pauline, whose neighbours and friends noted had declined mentally - with statements to police that she’d begun to see ‘two Malcolms’, two houses and children running through the Browns’ house - had petechiae around her eyes, small red marks that are a sign of asphyxiation.
Weeks before his death, Malcolm had told a relative there was ‘only one cure - murder and suicide’, said Detective Sergeant Stuart Hall.
“There’s no reports or insinuation there had been any domestic violence or domestic abuse whatsoever,” added DS Hall.
“But what had become apparent over the last couple of years was Pauline’s declining mental condition.
“It was almost as if the past and present had become mixed up in her mind.”
She had evidence of three types of dementia, Home Office pathologist Dr Philip Lumb told the inquest - but these had not been diagnosed.
While Dr Lumb deemed her death undetermined, coroner David Urpeth recorded her cause of death as upper airway asphyxiation after hearing other evidence.
Post-mortem examinations showed Type I diabetic and daily insulin user Malcolm had a cancerous tumour in his abdomen - with police confirming he’d been attending Barnsley Hospital.
Dr Lumb added on the balance of probabilities Malcolm’s cause of death was most likely insulin toxicity.
Malcolm’s death was recorded by Mr Urpeth as suicide.
“The appropriate conclusion to record in Mrs Brown’s case is unlawful killing,” he added.
“I’m satisfied that on balance of probabilities, that having taken his wife’s life, he (Mr Brown) decided to take his own life.
“The circumstances of Mr and Mrs Brown’s deaths are both sad and tragic.
“I’ve heard evidence that they have had a long and happy marriage - their deaths therefore are not only a tragedy for them, but a tragedy for all those they leave behind.”
Full report in Friday's Barnsley Chronicle.