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Oct 08, 2012 20:06
By Lucy Thornton
A tragic father disturbed by the death of his baby boy killed his wife, two young sons and then took his own life, an inquest heard.
Richard Smith, 37, was found with his arms “embracing” the perfect family he had turned on so violently and suddenly. His wife, Clair, 36, was cradling the ashes of the baby boy they had lost four years before.
The dad had stabbed his wife in the chest and strangled her with a neck scarf in their bedroom. He then moved to the rooms of his two children, Ben, nine and 14-month-old Aaron where he stabbed them in their beds.
After carrying his sons into the master bedroom he set fire to their home and died with his arms wrapped around all three.
Leeds Coroner’s Court heard that the couple had been “deeply affected” by the loss of a baby, who they had named Jake.
Detective Superintendent Paul Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police, told the court: “Four years ago, almost to that day, they lost a baby Jake. “The box containing baby Jake’s ashes was found in the crook of Clair’s arm.
“Clair was in the position you would imagine was natural to sleep in, Ben was laid across his mum, Aaron between them and Richard embracing all three.”
He explained that around December each year the couple had taken time off work to remember their son.
West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff asked him: “Clearly there have been issues causing Richard to have this aberration and leading to him taking this action?”
Det Supt Taylor said: “You’re right in saying that there were clearly issues preying on Richard’s mind that were not resolved.”
The court heard how shopfitter Smith had strangled his accounts manager wife and fatally stabbed her in her chest at their home in Pudsey, Leeds last December 11.
He then stabbed his eldest son in his neck and chest but Ben did not die from these injuries.
Baby Aaron was fatally stabbed in the neck.
Both were still in pyjamas.
Pathologist Brian Rodgers told that court that Ben died from inhalation of gases and suffocation.
He said the suffocation could have been caused by a hand being placed over Ben’s nose and mouth or because his face was pressed tightly into his father’s chest as they lay on the bed.
The inquest heard how the dad barricaded the windows with mattresses before starting a fire on the bed with clothes from the wardrobe.
He had also turned the gas on a hob in the kitchen.
Mr Smith died from smoke and fire gas inhalation but had also stabbed himself in the neck in an unsuccessful attempt to take his life.
Mr Hinchliff said: “On that dreadful and fatal day, it would appear that Richard undergone some aberration and some problem affecting his mental health that caused him to take the action he did.
“It was a concerted act of destruction of his family and his own self-destruction.”
After the inquest, Det Supt Taylor described Richard as “obsessive”, adding he had been treated for depression two years previously.
The family had last been seen at their local cricket club on December 9, where it had been Ben’s football presentation evening, and they had behaved normally, according to friends.
Tragically, because little Ben’s advent calendar was not opened on December 10, police suspect that the devastating incident happened when they returned.
Coroner Hinchliff said the death of their baby had “obviously deeply affected them.”
He recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for Clair and the two boys, adding that he was satisfied that Smith took his own life.