Families REJECT claims a mystery serial killer slaughtered their elderly relatives and insist it was murder-suicide

BEREAVED families have rejected claims a mystery serial killer slaughtered their elderly relatives and insist their deaths were murder-suicides.

Relatives blame mental health for their loved ones' deaths after a coroner's report suggested couples were butchered by a killer targeting frail OAPs.

Stephanie Davies, senior coroner's officer for Cheshire, has published a 179-page report into the deaths of couples across North West England between 1996 and 2011.

She claims similarities suggest a serial killer could be responsible for at least two cases.

Three other murder-suicides, in 2000, 2008 and 2011, involving elderly couples have since been identified for further investigation.

One couple, Eileen and Ken Martin, 76 and 77, were found dead in their Manchester home in 2008. 


Mrs Martin, who had dementia, had suffered head injuries and cuts to her head and neck.

Her husand, who had cancer, was found hanged with his throat cut.

He had told his daughter the night before their deaths he couldn't cope.

Son-in-law Dennis Tong, 63, who found the couple, insists Mr Martin was responsible for his and his wife's deaths. 

Ken had been struggling for a few years. He must have done it on the spur of the moment.

Mr Tong said: "Ken had been struggling for a few years. He just crumbled under the pressure.

"He must have done it on the spur of the moment. 

"We know Ken was going downhill. He was a proud man and would not take any help from anybody.

"We suggested putting Eileen in a home and he just refused. I think he just crumbled under the pressure."

The Sunday Times insight team revealed the deaths of two couples in Wilmslow, Cheshire, are being examined as possible double murders.

Howard and Bea Ainsworth died in 1996, in what was believed to be a murder-suicide. 

This was followed three years later by the apparent murder-suicide of Donald and Auriel Ward.

Both deaths involved horrifying levels of violence with Bea, 78, found stabbed in the forehead with a knife. 


She had also been struck repeatedly in the head with a hammer, and was found with a pillow covering her face.

Husband Howard was found lying beside her in his pajamas – with his head covered by a bag. 

Police investigating the case found a suicide note – which appeared to be written by Howard- at the scene and subsequently declared the deaths a murder-suicide.

Another couple Auriel and Donald Ward died in 1999 in a similar circumtances.

Auriel was discovered beaten, stabbed and suffocated and, like, Bea, had a pillow partially covering her face.

Which cases are being examined?

Donald and Auriel Ward (73 and 68 respectively)

The bodies of Donald and Auriel Ward were discovered on November 26, 1999, in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Auriel had been struck over the head and stabbed in the neck, while Donald had had his neck cut open and had been stabbed in the chest.

They were found in bed dressed in pyjamas and a nightdress.

Kenneth and Eileen Martin (77 and 76 respectively)

The bodies of Kenneth and Eileen Martin were discovered on November 10 in 2008 in Davyhulme, Greater Manchester.

They were found in their garage.

Eilen had suffered head injuries and cuts to her head and neck.

Kenneth, meanwhile, was discovered hanged and his throat had been cut.

Stanley and Peggy Wilson (92 and 89 respectively)

The couple were found on February 18, 2011 in the town of Kendal, Cumbria.

They were – like the other couples- found dead in their bedroom.

Peggy had sustained a blow to the head as well as cuts to her neck.

Stanley was discovered with cuts to his neck and body.

Michael and Violet Higgins (59 and 76 respectively)

Michael and Violet Higgins were discovered on February 21, 2000 in Disbury, Manchester.

Violet was found in her bed wearing a nightdress, after being beaten over the head and stabbed in her neck.

Michael was found in the spare bedroom and had cuts to his neck.

He had also been strangled with a coathanger.

Police initially concluded that both discovered of the cases were murder-suicides.

Police initially concluded that both discovered of the cases were murder-suicides.

The coroner's office for Cheshire at the time, Christine Hurst, reportedly said the cases didn't feel "right" and was "appalled at the level of violence" – as well as the eerie similarities between them.

On her retirement in 2017, she passed the cases to her successor Stephanie Davies who has filed the new report.

Now, Coroner Davies has challenged the rulings of the two cases as murder-suicides – citing a number of inconsistent factors in the evidence. 

In her new report, she calls on the National Crime Agency and Interpol to conduct an urgent review of the cases.

Nafir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor for the northwest, told the Sunday Times after reviewing Davies' report: “We could potentially have a serial killer in our midst.

“There needs to be a proper review of these cases and others which carry similar hallmarks.”

A top "cold case" police forensic investigator said of the report: "I would be looking at the same offender involved in both cases as a very real possibility".

The investigator added, however, that he was not certain.

Davies also identified three other 'murder-suicide' cases, which occurred in 2000, 2008 and 2011, which she believes could be related to the deaths of the Wards and the Ainsworth’s. 

Both police forces have now been made aware of the findings in the report. 

All three cases bore similar characteristics to the Wilmslow deaths – with police saying that the husbands had stabbed their wives and hit them on the head before taking their own lives. 

Cheshire Police told the Sunday Times they were reviewing the report and have notified the other forces concerned.

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