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By Richard Savill
Published: 7:30AM BST 16 Oct 2010
A wife who was depressed following the death of her father shot her wealthy businessman husband dead before drowning herself in the bath, an inquest was told yesterday.
Paul and Jean Laithwaite were married for 40 years, and were regular churchgoers Photo: PA
Jean Laithwaite, 65, killed her husband, Paul, 64, a property magnate, at point-blank range with his 12-bore double-barrel shotgun as he slept in bed at their mansion. She then took a cocktail of alcohol, painkillers and anti-depressants before submerging herself in a bath of water.
The couple, who were married for 40 years, and were regular churchgoers, were found by two of their sons a few hours later on Jan 17 this year.
On the kitchen table, police found a bible which had a note inside with Mrs Laithwaite’s name on it.
It read: “My soul is full of sorrow to the point of death.”
The hearing in Flint was told the deaths had devastated the couple’s three sons and the local community in Sealand, Cheshire, a village close to the border of North Wales.
Mr Laithwaite, an engineer by trade, had been successful in the booming North Wales property market.
His wife was a keen charity fund raiser, and was an active member of the Lady Taverners, which raises money through cricket.
The couple, who were well known and respected, in their parish, also played a significant part in the running of Deefab, a van-equipping business owned by two of their sons, 40-year-old twins Jeremy and Quentin.
Their eldest son, Marcus, 41, is a successful businessman in Sydney, Australia.
All three sons attended the inquest in Flint.
The parish priest Rev Tudor Griffiths told the hearing the death of Mrs Laithwaite’s father in December 2008, who had lived with the couple for 20 years, had left them both feeling depressed.
Mr Griffiths, the rector of Hawarden, said Mrs Laithwaite was particularly close to her father and struggled to come to terms with his death at the age of 98.
He said: “She had struggled with her faith due to the loss of her daughter-in-law of cancer at a young age.
“But after her father died she asked to be confirmed and both became an important part of our small congregation.”
A close family friend, Richard Coe, from Anglesey, said he and his wife had visited the day before the couple were found dead.
He recognised that the Laithwaites were both depressed and made arrangements for the two couples to see each other more frequently.
He added: “Jean struggled to deal with the death of her father. I would say she never came to terms with it.”
Mr Coe told the hearing the couple were “very close and did everything together. Like all marriages it had its ups and downs but it was a good, solid marriage.”
“Paul was more resilient than Jean,” he added.
The North East Wales coroner John Hughes recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on Mr Laithwaite and suicide on his wife.
He said he suspected Mrs Laithwaite’s health was a key factor in what had happened.
He said people would speculate about the cause but no-one would ever really know the answer.
“They lived happily together for many years and on that sad day they were discovered in the property by their children. That must have been like a thunderclap to all the family and friends. Their world was ripped apart on that one single day.”
Afterwards, a family statement said: “Paul and Jean, from the time they first met, were inseparable.
“The family takes comfort in knowing that they continue to be together as they would have wished.”