Pensioner killed himself on bail in wife murder case

A DEPRESSED 79-year-old man charged with murder after unlawfully killing his sick wife committed suicide after being granted bail by a court, an inquest heard yesterday.

Devoted Alan Thomas gave his 77-year-old wife Winifred tablets to make her feel drowsy before pushing her head under water in the bath at the family home.

The retired chartered building surveyor waited until he was certain she was dead before calling police and telling an operator: "I've just helped my wife to die."

The inquest heard that housewife Mrs Thomas suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and was unable to use her hands.

Police were told by Thomas she had attempted suicide several times as she became frustrated at her increasing inability to look after herself.

Thomas told officers: "You don't know what it's like. I even had to change her sanitary towels. Imagine that." He added: "I wanted to be certain that she wanted to end her life."

Emergency services arrived at the couple's home in Rainham, Kent, on May 9 last year and found Mrs Thomas lying face up in the bath.

In a statement read at County Hall, Maidstone, Pc Sarah Lambert said Thomas was sitting in a chair clearly upset with his hands shaking. "He said he loved her," she said.

A post mortem examination at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham by Dr Robert Chapman showed no evidence of acute natural disease that would have contributed to her death.

Bruises found on Mrs Thomas's head could have been caused by her being forcibly pushed under the water, the pathologist added. The cause of death was confirmed as drowning.

Thomas, who had two sons with his wife, was arrested on suspicion of murder and confirmed he had pushed his wife's head under the water.

Det Chief Insp David Chewter, of Kent Police's major crime department, said: "During interview he confirmed that account both that day and the next day.

"He said he had lifted her legs up to help lie her flat in the bath." No-one else was present at the couple's home when she drowned, he added.

Mr Chewter said Thomas said he had been happy to continue caring for his wife but that she was depressed at being unable to function properly.

Thomas was charged with murder and on May 13, he appeared at Crown Court where he was granted conditional bail and later was allowed to return home when his conditions were varied.

The alarm was raised after he failed to keep an appointment with his solicitor last August 9. Officers arrived at his home to find him lying dead on his bed with a plastic bag round his head, dressed only in his underwear.

No suicide note was found but police were satisfied there was no third party involvement.

Coroner Roger Sykes said he was satisfied Mrs Thomas was unlawfully killed and that her husband took his own life.

Mr Sykes said: "The evidence I have heard is a most tragic state of affairs. Mr Thomas, from the explanations that he gave to police, truly believed that he was doing what his wife wished.