Shock at Swafield couple’s cottage deaths

An elderly couple have been found dead in their Norfolk cottage, it emerged late yesterday afternoon.

The bodies of Albert and Joan Grand were discovered in different rooms of their Barbers Cottage home in The Street, Swafield, near North Walsham, an inquest opening heard in Norwich yesterday.

The tragedy has shocked those who knew the pair, described as an 'absolutely devoted couple,' by Mrs Grand's former employee and friend, Juliet Buckingham.

The couple are believed to have lived in the village for more than 50 years.

Police, who forced their way into the cottage on November 28, after a family member was unable to contact them, found Mr Grand, 83, in the lounge.

He died from carbon monoxide poisoning but was also suffering from heart disease. His wife, 78, was in the downstairs bathroom. The cause of her death has not been established but police do not believe there were any suspicious circumstances.

Mrs Buckingham said Mr Grand, known as Claud, had worked on the Buckingham family's fruit farm in Swafield until his retirement in the time of her parents-in-law, Brian and Monica.

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Mrs Grand had worked in the house for Monica Buckingham and had been very close to her. After Monica's death, she had continued to work one day a week for Juliet.

'She was my friend. They were part of the Buckingham family. I was married for 44 years and they had always been there. I am devastated at what has happened. I can't believe they won't be around any more,' said Mrs Buckingham, whose husband Mike, died aged 70, earlier this year.

In the early 1980s he founded the Buckingham Emergency Food Appeal (Befa) which helps feed thousands of homeless people over the Christmas period every year.

'Joan used to walk up here for a chat every three or four weeks after my husband's death, stopping to visit his grave in Swafield Church.

'They were a wonderful pair who lived such a full life. They went to the gym twice a week which was incredible at their age. Claud was the most amazing gardener. Joan was always bringing me vegetables he'd grown. Their garden was a picture. Joan was a fantastic knitter. She knitted for my daughter's children.'

The Grands had two daughters, Linda and Lesley, according to old friends Stephen and Eileen Pamment, from Queensway, North Walsham.

The two couples regularly went to country and western dances and outings together and Mrs Pamment and Mrs Grand used to go swimming in Mundesley, until the Grands became reclusive and stopped going out with friends about 15 years ago, according to Mr Pamment, 81.

He had bumped into Mrs Grand by chance at the opticians about two months ago and they had had a friendly conversation. She had said she was still swimming, but at Bodham.

'It was a shock to hear what happened - and very sad,' he added.

Both inquests were adjourned by Norfolk coroner William Armstrong to a date to be fixed.