Tragedy as South Yorkshire woman with dementia is killed before husband's suicide

A South Yorkshire woman with dementia was killed before her husband took his own life, an inquest heard.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 7:38 pm

Malcolm Brown, 74, and his wife Pauline, 73, were found by family members at their home on Lamb Lane, Monk Bretton, on July 8 last year.

Senior coroner David Urpeth heard that Mrs Brown’s dementia had caused her health to decline in the months before she died, and that she had ‘possibly’ been smothered by her husband.

Mrs Brown’s death was ruled to be ‘unlawful’ and her injuries were said to have been consistent with asphyxiation.

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The inquest was heard at the Sheffield-Medico legal centre.

Mr Brown, a Type 1 diabetic and regular injectable insulin user, is then believed to have taken a deliberate insulin overdose and ended his own life.

Reading evidence at the Medico Legal Centre in Sheffield, Mr Urpeth said that Mr and Mrs Brown enjoyed a ‘long and happy marriage’ and spent the day before their deaths with family members.

Mr Brown had been a barber for 55 years before his retirement in 2019, and had run the Hairdressing Room on Eldon Street North since his dad purchased it for him to take over when he was a teenager fresh out of his apprenticeship.

Speaking at the inquest, Det Sgt Stuart Hall of South Yorkshire Police said that the past and present had become ‘mixed up’ in Mrs Brown’s mind and that Mr Brown had mentioned suicide to his son Keith ‘some years ago’ if he ‘couldn’t cope anymore’.

The police officer added that Mrs Brown may have become ‘difficult to live with’ do to her declining condition. Meanwhile Mr Brown was aware that he had cancer, which Det Sgt Hall said would have caused him ‘a lot of pain’.

Det Sgt Hall said the couple were found dead in separate bedrooms by members of their family on July 8, 2020. The house was locked and alarmed.

Police had been called to the couple’s house by the ambulance service just before 6pm, after Mrs Brown’s sister raised the alarm due to the fact she had been unable to contact the couple.

Det Sgt Hall added that he believed nobody else was involved with their deaths.

A pathologist’s report said that Mrs Brown’s injuries were consistent with asphyxiation but he said a post-mortem examination alone could not confirm that she had been smothered.

Meanwhile, a post-mortem examination of Mr Brown found an ‘aggressive’ cancerous tumour in his abdomen.

Forensic pathologist Dr Philip Lumb said that Mr Brown had undergone medical checks for this, and that it would likely have caused his death ‘in a matter of weeks’.

The coroner concluded that Mrs Brown’s death as unlawful, while Mr Brown died as a result of suicide.

Mr Urpeth said: “I’m satisfied that on balance of probabilities, that having taken his wife’s life, Mr Brown decided to take his own life.

“The circumstances of Mr and Mrs Brown’s deaths are both sad and tragic.”

He added that the couple’s death was “a tragedy for them but also a tragedy for those who have been left behind”.