Norfolk Broads death inquest hears that woman was thrown in river by man who then took his own life

An inquest has opened today into the death of two people on the Broads. The scene on the River Bure close to Salhouse Broad at the time. Picture: James Bass

A woman was strangled, weighed down and thrown in the river by a man who then took his own life, an inquest has heard.

A woman was strangled, weighted down and thrown in the river by a man who then took his own life, an inquest has heard.

The bodies of Annette Creegan, 49, a nurse, from Mitcham in Surrey and John Didier, 41, also from Mitcham, were recovered from the River Bure on Sunday, September 2 last year.

They were found by divers brought in by police after Ms Creegan's 13-year-old daughter was found alone aboard a hired pleasure cruiser, moored opposite the entrance to Salhouse Little Broad.

An inquest held in Norwich today heard a Home Office post-mortem examination revealed Ms Creegan died as a result of strangulation while Mr Didier died as a result of drowning.

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Ms Creegan, Mr Didier and the girl had left home for a holiday on the Norfolk Broads on August 25.

They arrived at 4pm and went shopping before picking up their boat at 5pm.

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At about 5.30pm on August 25 the boat was moored at Salhouse Little Broad where it remained.

The girl was discovered at about 5pm on Saturday, September 1, prompting a major search which resulted in the bodies being discovered the next day .

Ms Creegan, who was found naked, strangled and weighted down with a 30kg dumbbell, is believed to have been in the water a week before she was discovered at about 2pm on September 2.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said Mr Didier deliberately killed Ms Creegan and recorded a verdict of unlawful killing in respect of Ms Creegan.

Mr Armstrong said he was satisfied beyond 'reasonable doubt' that Mr Didier, who had tied weights to his limbs before entering the water, died 'as a result of his own actions' and recorded a verdict of suicide.

His body was discovered just before 5pm on September 2. He had been weighted down with two 17.5kg weights tied to his feet and two 15kg weights tied to his wrists.

It is thought he killed himself on Friday, August 31 or September 1.

Mr Armstrong added: 'What a grotesque irony that this happened in the idyllic setting of the Norfolk Broads - what a contrast between the calm serenity of the waters and this dreadful tragedy.'

A search was launched after a river worker alerted police on September 1 to the discovery of the teenage girl alone on the boat.

When she was interviewed, the girl said they had arrived for a holiday on the Broads and the following day she woke to find her mother was not there.

Detective Constable Christina Stone told the inquest the girl said they had been travelling for about 25 minutes on the Norfolk Broads before they moored the boat up on August 25.

Det Con Stone said the girl was told the following day that Ms Creegan had left. She had no access to a mobile telephone, means of contacting anyone or of getting off the boat so remained on board.

The inquest heard the girl awoke on Saturday, September 1 but could see no sign of Mr Didier. She was later taken off the boat by a broads ranger at about 5pm the same day.

Ms Creegan's elderly mother and two brothers attended the inquest along with Mr Didier's brother and sister-in-law who travelled from his native home in the US.

Bruises to Ms Creegan's fists suggested she had tried to fight off Mr Didier but there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

Broads Authority ranger Andrew Ellson said he noticed the boat moored to the secluded 'woodland bank' at about 5pm on Saturday, September 1.

After discovering the boat had been reported missing by the hire company he approached the cruiser which had the curtains shut but the engine running. He knocked on the side of the boat and discovered there was a teenage girl aboard who appeared to be by herself. He spoke to police and took the girl back to Wroxham.

Detective Inspector Gary Bloomfield of the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team (MIT) said a thorough investigation was carried out.

He added: 'I'm confident in saying John Didier had killed Annette and subsequently took his own life a number of days later.

'It appears John Didier had in some way planned the events of this week and the events unfolded as they did.'

Speaking after the inquest DI Bloomfield said: 'This was a tragic incident made all the more difficult for the family and friends of Annette Creegan by the intense media spotlight following her death and I would like to pass my condolences to them. I hope that today's inquest has answered some of the questions about what happened on Salhouse Broad and we continue to offer them support at this difficult time.'

He said officers had found no evidence of any tension in the relationship and Mr Didier's motive remained unclear.

On the night of her mother's death, the girl slept undisturbed and did not hear any argument.

The boat was not locked but was surrounded by marsh and woodland with no footpaths so she felt unable to leave.

There was no evidence she or Mr Didier left the boat following Ms Creegan's death and no one else had been on board.

The family hired the Le Boat cruiser from nearby Horning and were familiar with the area from previous holidays. They had stocked up on food and the girl was fed throughout the week.

It is thought Mr Didier bought the weights and cable ties with the intention of murdering Ms Creegan before leaving Surrey.

Ms Creegan, born in Balham, worked as a community nurse for the Trinity Hospice charity in Clapham Common, south-west London, while Mr Didier, originally from Kettering, Ohio, had worked in IT for the NHS but was unemployed at the time.

Both families declined to comment as they left the inquest.

The girl is being cared for by family.

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