Abusive boyfriend strangled lover—(BBC News)

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BBC News

Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The bodies were found when officers forced their way into the house. An abusive boyfriend, banned from seeing the mother of his four children, strangled her in her bedroom, an inquest has heard.

Kelly Smith, 23, of Slingsby Crescent, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was killed by Robert Johnson, whose body was found hanged in her home, in June 2007.

Two court orders had prevented Mr Johnson from contacting Miss Smith.

Coroner Geoff Fell recorded a verdict of unlawful killing at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court.

Mr Fell read a number of statements from family and friends describing the couple’s “dysfunctional” relationship, which began in 1999.

Witnesses told how, on one occasion, Miss Smith woke to find Mr Johnson standing at the foot of her bed with a hammer raised above his head.

Miss Smith called the police on 25 occasions between 2000 and 2005, the inquest was told. She had also two panic buttons installed in her home but had never used them.

Mr Fell said Miss Smith went to three women’s refuges during her relationship with Mr Johnson but always returned to Harrogate.

Mr Johnson was sent to live in a bail hostel in Leeds in the months before their deaths but was allowed to return to live with his mother in Harrogate when he was evicted.

Mr Fell said despite a non-molestation order preventing Mr Johnson from contacting Miss Smith and an occupation order banning him from going within 100 metres of Slingsby Crescent, the couple continued to see each other.

Drink problem

The coroner said: “Kelly was aware that the orders were in place to protect her; she would only use these orders when it suited her.

“Members of both Rob and Kelly’s families knew what was going on but did little to tell the authorities.

Mr Fell said Mr Johnson suffered from depression and was prescribed anti-depressant tablets which he did not take in the days before his death.

He also had a drink problem and used drugs and had been drinking before he killed Miss Smith, which could have “heightened his emotional state”.

Speaking at the inquest Les Smith, Miss Smith’s father, said: “I do believe police did all that was possible. They did a really good job.

“I’m very pleased with the way things have gone this morning and it’s good to have a bit of closure to it.”