Coroner: ‘Lessons should be learned’ after violent deaths of elderly Sunderland couple

James and May Stokoe
James and May Stokoe
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A CORONER is set to write to health chiefs after a pensioner stabbed his wife to death before taking his own life.

An inquest heard that James Stokoe attacked wife May – both 79 – with a knife at their Hylton Castle home.

It is believed he was trying to kill himself in a back bedroom, when his wife of 56 years disturbed him.

He then turned on her, leaving her with fatal wounds to her neck, before turning the knife on himself.

The retired blacksmith was receiving treatment for mental health problems, after he tried to kill himself in March 2013, when he was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder.

But he had stopped taking anti-psychotic drugs and admitted he had thoughts about harming his wife.

However, mental health nurse Sue Willmott told the inquest that Mr Stokoe always added that he could never hurt her. Daily visits by mental health workers were cut down to twice-weekly, after he said the thoughts had gone.

Independent expert Phil Robertson carried out a review of the case.

He said Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust would now become part of a national programme looking at homicide and suicide in mental health.

The Stokoe case would also be used anonymously to support future training.

He agreed with consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul Danson that Mr Stokoe should not have been sectioned.

But he did flag up delays in a repeat prescription and that on one occasion, Mr Stokoe was visited by an unqualified healthcare assistant, rather than a mental health nurse. Coroner Derek Winter recorded conclusions that Mrs Stokoe was unlawfully killed and Mr Stokoe killed himself.

Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said both had died of knife wounds to the throat.

Mr Winter said he did not criticise the healthcare trust.

But he wanted other trusts across the country to be made aware of the case and said he would be using his powers to raise issues in Mr Robertson’s report with the Secretary of State for Health.

He said: “I remain concerned that incidents like this should have he utmost priority and lessons learnt locally should not be lost nationally.”

A spokesman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with the family at this most difficult of times.”

•Conclusions: unlawful killing and killed himself.