‘Gremlins told him to do bad things’ – Sunderland pensioner killed his wife and himself after hearing voices, inquest told

Police outside the Hylton Castle Road home of James and May Stokoe after the killing.
Police outside the Hylton Castle Road home of James and May Stokoe after the killing.
Have your say

A PENSIONER who complained of hearing voices in his head stabbed his wife to death before using the same knife to kill himself, an inquest has heard.

The bodies of James and May Stokoe – both 79 – were found in the back bedroom of the house in Hylton Castle where they had lived for 48 years, in May last year.

The couple had been in “a turbulent and unloving marriage”, an inquest heard.

The hearing was told police believe Mr Stokoe was trying to kill himself, when he was disturbed by his wife of 56 years.

The father-of-three is thought to have turned on her, leaving her with severe injuries to her neck.

He went outside to sharpen the knife in his shed, before returning to the bedroom, where Mrs Stokoe, a retired dinner lady, tried to stop him getting back into the bedroom.

But he forced the door open, stabbing his wife to death, then stabbing himself in the neck.

Detective Chief Inspector Christina Barrett, from Northumbria Police, said the couple’s marriage had not been happy. She said: “What we found from speaking to family, friends and neighbours was that for a number of decades, they had a turbulent, distant and unloving relationship towards each other and would go for long periods of time without speaking to each other.”

DCI Barrett said the retired blacksmith spoke of “gremlins in his head telling him to do bad things”.

Mr Stokoe, 79, had suffered mental health problems and attempted suicide in March 2013, after being diagnosed with cancer of the bladder.

Before the deaths in May last year, the hearing was told that some members of the family had started to hide items such as knives in the house from Mr Stokoe.

He was referred to a specialist mental health team, who visited him daily but he insisted to them he would never harm his wife.

Mental health nurse Sue Wilmott said: “He said he would not hurt his wife for the world.”

Mr Stokoe also complained that his wife was not sympathetic about symptoms he believed he was suffering from cancer treatment.

The hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre also heard he had stopped taking anti-psychotic drugs.

But Dr Paul Danson, a consultant psychiatrist, said patients being treated in the community could not be forced to take medication.

Before the tragic attack, Mr Stokoe said “intrusive thoughts” about hurting his wife had gone, and visits were dropped to twice weekly,

He added: “He clearly had symptoms of a mental health disorder, but he was not someone who should detained in hospital.”

He tried to contact Mr Stokoe on May 1, the day of the attack, but could not get through.

The inquest is expected to conclude today.