Double pensioner death in Sunderland ‘could not have been predicted’

James and May Stokoe
James and May Stokoe
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THE death of a pensioner killed by her husband, who went on to take his own life, could not have been predicted, a new report has found.

May Stokoe, 79, was stabbed to death by husband James at a bedroom in their Sunderland home in May 2013.

An inquest at Sunderland Civic Centre in January heard Mr Stokoe, also 79, had been diagnosed with cancer and had attempted suicide before killing his wife of 56 years.

Mr Stokoe, a retired blacksmith, had been seeing a psychiatrist.

A domestic homicide review, written by Sunderland Safer Partnership, says her tragic death was not predictable.

It says Mrs Stokoe was not considered to be a potential victim of abuse, due to her age and as her husband had no record of domestic violence.

“This meant that actions that would normally be put in place to protect abuse victims were not considered.”

While the report says the killing could not have been predicted, it recommends that more is done to raise awareness of the potential for domestic violence by older people.

Safer Sunderland Partnership chairwoman Michelle Meldrum said: “This was a tragic case and deeply distressing for all those involved. I would like to express my sincere condolences to their family.

“We are determined to learn from this and have already taken action to address each and every one of the recommendations it makes.”

Now the partnership - which includes Sunderland City Council and Northumbria Police - is to launch a campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse in older people.

Michelle added: “We intend to use the learning from this tragic case to raise public awareness that older people are just as much at risk of domestic abuse as those who are traditionally thought to be vulnerable. Up until now this has been a hidden problem.

“We want to make sure people have the confidence to recognise the signs that someone they know and love is at risk of domestic abuse as well as making sure they know where to go to report or discuss their concerns and get support.”

John Lawlor, chief executive of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to thank the author for her comprehensive report. We know that such investigations can’t always answer every question a family member or friend has about the death of a loved one, but the hope is always that such reports can help avoid other families having to go through the same trauma.

“The panel concluded that the death could not have been predicted, however this does not mean that there is not work to be done going forward. Recommendations have been made to ourselves, the Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, City Hospitals Sunderland, the Safer Sunderland Partnership and Sunderland City Council and we will act on them.”

Domestic homicide reports aim to establish what lessons can learnt when someone has been killed by a current or ex-partner and there is a statutory duty for them to be carried out.