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The Chichester Observer Metro
Published Date: 14 October 2008
A wealthy retired property developer killed his wife and then himself after she told him she was not a virgin when they married, an inquest heard today.
Police said the disclosure by Susan Goswell to her mentally-ill husband Roger Goswell proved to be the “tipping point” in their tempestuous 46-year marriage.
Mrs Goswell, 63, was found last December 23 with multiple stab wounds inflicted with a kitchen knife and a mallet at the gated bungalow she shared with her husband.
Mr Goswell, 66, crashed his Smart car into a tree in Monkmead Lane, near West Chiltington, West Sussex, later that same night and died later at Worthing Hospital.
A number of warnings were made about Mr Goswell’s potential to harm his wife in the run-up to the tragedy as family members said he had a history of violence, the inquest in Chichester heard.
The Goswells’ eldest daughter, Sarah Bevan, told how she urged health officials not to discharge her father from hospital in the weeks before the deaths because of concerns about his mental wellbeing.
In an email, she wrote that she did not want to be “another front page story” involving a patient who should not have been released and that she had “begged” for her father’s case to be taken seriously.
Ms Bevan said: “I feel this is a tragedy which will be life-long for us and our children. Perhaps if people had taken things more seriously then maybe they would still be here today.”
Mr Goswell was admitted to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester last November after he unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide by attaching a pipe from his exhaust to his car in his garage.
Following the suicide bid, Ms Bevan said he remarked: “There are three people in this marriage.”
He was then transferred to the Priory Clinic in Hove, East Sussex, and was discharged on December 17. Three days later Mrs Goswell called police to report he had threatened to kill her.
A further three days later, her blood-stained body was found in the lounge of their luxury home after police called at the property following Mr Goswell’s car crash.
Another of the Goswells’ daughters, Rebecca Merrick, said her father had previously disclosed how he would kill his wife, using an elderflower bottle and she said: “He said he felt upset that my mother wasn’t a virgin. He felt he had his heart broken.”
Mr Goswell’s sister, Marie King, said: “All I can say is that I’m surprised that my brother was not sectioned, having made a threat to his kill his wife.”
Detective Chief Inspector Adam Hibbert, of Sussex Police’s major crime branch, said a murder inquiry was launched after relatives revealed Mr Goswell had become obsessed that his wife should have been a virgin when they married.
Mr Hibbert said Mrs Goswell’s disclosure to her husband that she had had a relationship with a man called Brian Daly before meeting him had a profound impact on him.
Police inquiries found no trace of Mr Daly and Mr Hibbert said he was satisfied that there was no third-party involvement in the deaths of Mr and Mrs Goswell.
The inquest was told that Mr Goswell had been exhibiting a bizarre habit of constantly changing his car in the months before the deaths.
Mrs King said he changed it some ten times in the space of the year.
In one instance, he bought a Bentley and then sold it just days later. Mrs King also said that Mrs Goswell often confided in her about her troubles with her husband and how she feared for her life.
Mrs King said she would often telephone her with fear in her voice. She said: “She was very anxious, very frightened and very fearful for her life. He wasn’t being rational.”
Ms Bevan said that, during one conversation, her mother told her she had “better know about the family paperwork” and Ms Bevan said her father was a man who would go to extreme lengths to prove a point.
Mrs Merrick described their father as “controlling and dominant”. She added: “My mother was the most loving, giving, fun and loyal person that you could ever meet. She was something else.”
Mr Goswell had suffered from depression and had seen psychiatrists. It was in the year leading up to her parents’ deaths that she became aware of troubles in their marriage, Mrs Merrick said.
Asked how her father was when on medication, Mrs Merrick said: “He was rational, calmer, normal. You could tell if he hadn’t been taking them.”
She added: “My father was desperate, he was depressed, he was up and down. He clearly loved my mother, she was his life.”
Ms King said that Mrs Goswell became “petrified, terrified and agitated” in the last few months of her life and that she would contact her almost daily.
The Goswells’ son, Joseph Goswell, described his father as “cold” towards him and someone whom he felt never liked him as a child.
He said: “My relationship with my father was never close. I was a Mummy’s boy and I think my father didn’t like that.”
Mr Goswell would become short-tempered when he came off anti-depressants, which he took since suffering from depression for the past 10 years, he added.
“He would smash things up and he would think nothing of throwing a cup of tea in a rage of violence.
“My mother would shout at my father but I would never see her being violent to him. She would fight her corner and I think my father respected my mother for that.”
Mr Goswell said his mother was thinking about divorcing but that she would have wanted to have seen Christmas through first.
He said: “I think my mother wanted to leave my father but she wouldn’t do it until after Christmas because she loved Christmas.
“She felt she wanted to get Christmas out of the way before she would do anything.”
The inquest heard from a number of people whom Mrs Goswell had confided her fears that her husband would kill her.
Among them was the Goswells’ cleaner, Gloria Cobbold, who broke down in tears as she recalled the last time she spoke to Mrs Goswell, just before Christmas.
She said: “Mrs Goswell gave me my Christmas present and asked me to put it on. I said to her that I will see you on Thursday and she replied, ‘He will have killed me by then’.”
She noticed a deterioration in Mr Goswell’s mental state and recalled a peculiar comment he made when he jested that he had murdered her and that she was in the shower.
“He just laughed,” Ms Cobbold said. “I said to him that if he would like to stand up I would kick him up the backside and push him in the pond, and he said, ‘I know which side you’re on’.
“I used to joke about with him but he really had changed. Things were going downhill. He wouldn’t have said something like that to me a year ago or even six months before.”
Ms Cobbold added that Mrs Goswell was “frightened for her life” and went on: “She felt he was going to do it before Christmas. It was so distressing.”
Mrs Goswell took to keeping scissors and knives around the house for protection, Mrs Cobbold said, and that when Mr Goswell was in hospital she would lock herself in doors at night amid fears he would escape.
Ms Cobbold said she became so concerned that she rang St Richard’s Hospital to ask them to keep Mr Goswell in, but Ms Cobbold said: “They said it was his human right to come home.”
She added: “I feel the pair of them were badly let down, Roger as much as Susan, and as a result people have lost a mother and a friend.”
Mrs Goswell also confided her fears that her husband would kill her to psychotherapist Clare James who was so alarmed that she emailed the Priory Hospital in the hope Mr Goswell would be sectioned.
However, it transpired that Ms James may have wrongly noted the doctor’s email address and no reply to her email was ever received by her.
In one conversation, Ms James said that during a car journey, Mr Goswell told his wife that “You’re not going to live without me and I’m not going to live without you”.
Peter Collins, who played golf with Mr Goswell, also became aware of the problems in his marriage and how troubled he was to learn his wife had a relationship before meeting him.
“I put it down to the fact that he got to what he thought was the truth,” he said. Mr Collins too expressed surprise that Mr Goswell had not been kept in hospital, saying: “I think he had too many problems.”
He added that Mr Goswell had told him of his intention to kill his wife and also his wish to kill “the third person” who Mrs Goswell had been involved in a relationship with prior to their meeting.
The inquest also heard that Mrs Goswell changed her will in the same month that she was killed to prevent her husband receiving any of her assets.
The hearing was adjourned until Friday, Octonber 17, and it is expected to run into a third day.