A retired Doncaster magistrate - whose husband was initially arrested on suspicion of her murder - died accidentally from falling down the stairs, an inquest has decided.
Frances Lee’s third husband, Rodger, spent a day in police custody before CCTV evidence proved he was outside their Warmsworth home drinking lager and smoking after they had ‘a blazing row’.
The couple’s troubled marriage had initially cast suspicion on Mr Lee, now 67, after he discovered his wife’s body lying at the foot of the stairs in their semi-detached home in Norbreck Road.
But detectives accepted Mrs Lee, who had also been drinking, must have fallen down the stairs, fracturing her skull, while her husband was sitting in his car on the driveway.
Mrs Lee, aged 70, a retired lab technician at Sir Thomas Wharton Community College in Edlington, was a regular churchgoer and Warmsworth library volunteer who was well regarded in the community.
Her body was found by Mr Lee in the early hours of March 12 last year, after the former policeman woke in his car and decided to go back into the house.
Mr Lee, a Doncaster Council driver, had drunk seven cans of lager and started smoking again after quitting for three months, something which had annoyed his wife of 22 years.
“I didn’t want any more confrontations so I stopped in the car and fell asleep. I woke up and left the car because I was cold. I saw Frances laid on the floor at the foot of the stairs. She was cold to the touch.”
When paramedics arrived he told them: “I think she’s dead. We’ve had a blazing row.”
A next-door neighbour later told police he’d heard a bang about 10.30pm, and another neighbour’s CCTV showed Mr Lee was inside his car on the driveway from about 9pm.
Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Assistant Coroner Geoffrey Saul said there was no evidence Mrs Lee had been unlawfully killed.
Her son, Andrew Till, said he agreed with the coroner’s findings.
The inquest had earlier been told Mr Lee had a ‘short fuse’, was ‘worse when he had a drink’ and had three previous convictions for drink-driving.
One of her friends, Eileen Cooley, said Mrs Lee had called her that night to say she ‘couldn’t take any more’.