Inquest into deaths of devoted Caister couple - Husband unable to cope with life after wife died

The coroner's court in Thorpe Road, Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley The coroner's court in Thorpe Road, Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

Saturday, May 17, 2014
11:57 AM

A couple whose bodies were found together at their home were so devoted to each other that the husband could not look after himself after his wife’s death, an inquest heard.

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The bodies of Barry Ellis, 71, and his wife Jean, 69, were discovered by police at their bungalow in Upper Grange Crescent in Caister-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, on February 12 last year.

An inquest in Norwich heard today that Mrs Ellis probably died first, which left Mr Ellis unable to cope on his own.

Mrs Ellis died from bronchitis and pneumonia while her husband died from severe dehydration.

A post-mortem report stated that Mrs Ellis’ death raised the possibility that the death of her husband was a consequence, as he was wholly or in part dependent on his wife for care.

However, the inquest heard it was unclear why neither of them had been able to seek assistance before her death. It was also unknown how long Mrs Ellis had been dead before her husband passed away.

The inquest heard that neighbours grew concerned for their welfare after they were not seen, and police were called after window cleaner Roy Holland spotted Mr Ellis’ body inside their home.

Police forced entry to the property and the bodies, both fully clothed, were found in the living room.

The couple were both retired market traders and they had no children.

The inquest was attended by Mrs Ellis’ brother, Douglas Hall, who said in a statement read to the court that the couple were devoted to each other.

He said both had issues with depression and that Mr Ellis had been a keen chess player.

“They relied on each other,” he said.

He last saw the couple at the end of 2012, when he said they appeared to be fine. He spoke to his sister about 10 days before their deaths.

He said: “It was a shock, as there had not been any real signs of it happening. But it was a blessing that they died together, considering how much they loved each other and were dependent on each other.”

The inquest also heard from Lucy Davies, from Norfolk County Council’s Swift Response team, which helps people with care and food requirements, who said they were contacted by a neighbour in relation to the couple just weeks before their deaths.

But she said the neighbour told them that the couple had food in the house and Mrs Ellis cooked every day, so they decided they were not in urgent need of help.

The neighbour was told to contact the couple’s GP, and a doctor subsequently visited their home, with the matter to be kept under review.

David Osborne, Norfolk’s assistant coroner, concluded that Mrs Ellis died from natural causes. While concluding that Mr Ellis died from severe dehydration, he added that, because he and his wife were so dependent on each other, when she died first, the lack of support from her led to his death.

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