Inquest into death of Sunderland man who suffered stab wound records open verdict

An inquest into the death of a man who suffered a fatal stab wound has recorded an open verdict.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 7:00 am
Police outside the house in Kemble Square. Downhill, in 2017.

Barry Solomon was found at his home in Kemble Square in the Downhill area of the city on the evening of Saturday, April 22, 2017, with what police said at the time were “significant injuries.”

An inquest heard on Tuesday how police originally treated the death as a murder, but there was no conclusive evidence as to whether Mr Solomon inflicted the wound himself or another party was involved.

Forensic pathologist Doctor Nigel Cooper, who conducted a post-mortem examination, told the Sunderland Coroner’s Court that “self infliction” could not be ruled out as the cause of the one-inch wound to his left thigh by a kitchen knife.

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He added: “If you had 100 wounds like that, a large majority would have been caused by someone else.”

The inquest heard how Mr Solomon’s partner Caroline Barker was originally arrested during a police investigation, but no charges were brought and she faced no further action.

While Ms Barker, who was 39 at the time of her arrest, did not give evidence at the inquest, she told police when interviewed that Mr Solomon said he did not want an ambulance.

She eventually alerted the emergency services at 10.47pm and he was pronounced dead at the scene at 11.34pm.

Blood samples later taken from her clothing were also said to be consistent with someone offering first aid.

Additional tests showed that 42-year-old Mr Solomon was three times the drink-drive limit and had recently taken both cocaine and cannabis.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fairlamb told the court that Ms Barker initially claimed Mr Solomon was already at home when she returned at around 9.30pm from a nearby relative’s address to discover him injured.

But, as police pieced together his movements, they found CCTV footage and received witness statements proving that he left the Tramcar pub, in Southwick, at 10pm and caught a bus at 10.05pm back to Downhill before arriving at their Kemble Square home around 10.20pm.

When this evidence was put to her, the inquest heard, she instead said she was upstairs when she heard a commotion in the kitchen and came downstairs to find him injured.

Det Insp Fairlamb told the court: “When first interviewed, she states she was not in the house when Barry received his injury because she came in after he was already there.

He added: “That is going to create a great deal of suspicion.”

The inquest was told that Ms Barker has stuck to her second account ever since and that this was “corroborated by others within the house”.

She was initially released under investigation as police inquiries continued before she was eventually told earlier this year that she would face no action.

The inquest was also told by Det Insp Fairlamb that the pair had a “strained relationship” with growing money issues and that the address was a “chaotic household”.

Assistant coroner David Place said: “There were previous inquiries to this household but they did not take this particular inquiry any further forward.”

Mr Place added that Doctor Cooper’s evidence could not prove beyond reasonable doubt how the wound was caused and concluded: “As a result, the only option available to me is a conclusion of an open verdict.”