How horrific deaths of couples on bloodstained beds sparked serial killer fears

How horrific deaths of couples on bloodstained beds sparked serial killer fears

The horrific deaths of two couples found on bloodstained beds have sparked fresh fears of a sick serial killer.

A new investigation has been launched into the deaths of two couples in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1996 and 1999, which are now being looked at as potential murders.

The deaths of Howard and Bea Ainsworth was followed by another apparent separate murder-suicide – Donald and Auriel Ward.

Both couples were found lying in bloodstained beds in their pyjamas and their deaths involved violence.

An investigation by The Sunday Times describes how the lives of those devoted couples changed suddenly – as they went from living happily to dying mysteriously.

Howard, 79, a former parks gardener, was reportedly worried as his 78-year-old wife, Beatrice, had a stomach bug.

At about 2pm his neighbour Margaret Farror popped her head over the fence to ask how Bea was feeling, The Sunday Times reports.

That was the last time the couple was seen alive.

In a statement to police, the neighbour said Howard seemed happy as he spoke to her and nothing in his actions could have explained the mysterious deaths which took place a few hours later.

The following morning, Bea was found lying face up on the bed with a knife in her forehead and a pillow partially covering her face.

Howard lay next to her, his head propped up against the headboard and hooded with a bag.

The case was declared to be a murder-suicide.

Police used a suicide note seemingly written by Howard of his own free will as the main piece of evidence, so the file was closed.

Three years later, a similar death happened in Wilmslow.

Donald and Auriel Ward were found lying in their bloodstained bed, wearing nightclothes, at their home in Lacey Grove.

Auriel had been bludgeoned to death, stabbed and suffocated with a pillow partially covering her face, while Donald was found with a knife stuck into his heart.

After a long police investigation, it was ruled that Donald’s mind must have been disturbed and, just like Howard, he had taken his own life after killing his wife.

But years later, some experts looking at the cases started questioning whether they were actually murder-suicides and started considering the option of a serial killer committing the killings.

Coroner’s officer for Cheshire, Christine Hurst, was reportedly so troubled by the similarities in the cases, she earmarked them in a special file that went largely undisturbed for two decades.

In a written statement, Ms Hurst later reportedly said the cases just didn’t seem “right” and she had been “appalled at the level of violence” and struck by the similarities in the victims’ demise and body positioning.

When she retired in 2017, she reportedly passed the cases of concern to her successor Stephanie Davies.

A 179-page report raised fears the cases had striking parallels and the alarm there could be more.

Three other murder-suicides have also been identified involving elderly couples in north west England for authorities to review in light of the stunning revelations.

Two of the cases deemed murder suicides and fitted the pattern in Greater Manchester, and were within half an hour’s drive from the Wilmslow deaths.

According to the newspaper, in each case the elderly women had been stabbed in the neck and suffered “blunt force trauma” to their heads.

In each case, the women had been deemed by authorities to have been attacked by their husbands, who had then taken their own lives.

Violet Higgins, 76, an ex-policewomen, was found dead alongside her husband Michael, 59, in Didsbury, Manchester in 2000.

Kenneth, 77, and Eileen Martin, 76 were found dead in their Davyhulme, Greater Manchester garage, in 2008, just ahead of their 55th wedding anniversary.

Stanley, 92, and Peggie Wilson, 89 were found dead in their Kendal, Cumbria, home in 2011 and were said by friends to have been a loving couple, according to the Sunday Times report.

The deaths were very similar to the Wilmslow ones, which has raised concerns there could be a serial killer on the loose.

Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor for the northwest this week told the Sunday Times: “The concerns raised in this report need to be taken very seriously.

“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 spokesman for Cheshire Constabulary said: “We are in receipt of the report and it is being reviewed.

“This is a piece of research which has been undertaken by the staff member, independently from her role within the constabulary.

“As with any case that has been closed, when new information comes to light it is reviewed and acted upon, if appropriate.

“We have notified both Greater Manchester Police and Cumbria Constabulary.”

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