‘Leeds wife killer had been sectioned and discharged weeks earlier’

Susan Ashworth. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Susan Ashworth. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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A MAN who stabbed his wife to death and burnt down their home in Leeds had been sectioned and then discharged just two weeks earlier, an inquest heard.

Martin Ashworth, 48, had attempted suicide by gassing himself with his own car after believing his wife of 25 years was leaving him.

While Mr Ashworth, an IT assistant, was in hospital following his attempted suicide, his wife Susan said she wanted a divorce, Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard.

But, the inquest was told he responded by telling nurses he would make it as “difficult as possible” for her to succeed in divorcing him.

The couple were found at their home in Garforth, Leeds, on April 29, 2014, after a house fire.

Mrs Ashworth , 47, had suffered three stab wounds to the right side of her chest and her husband was discovered badly burnt and barely alive in the garden.

He was taken to hospital where his family eventually turned off his life support.

Today, an inquest into their deaths heard that Mr Ashworth, who was described as “controlling” and “would only have things his way”, had once smashed up the couple’s bannister and threatened his wife with a piece of the broken wood.

He would even toss a coin on decisions involving the family.

Mrs Ashworth’s mother, Ann Cracknell, told the court that her son-in-law was known as “awkward”, “only had two friends” and “drained” her daughter.

She said her daughter was worried about him returning home from hospital.

Mrs Cracknell, whose statement was read out by West Yorkshire Coroner, David Hinchliff, stated that on one occasion Susan had dislocated her knee following a shouting match with him, but that he had failed to help her.

The statement read: “Susan would tell me incidents of Martin tossing a coin to see if he would join them as a family to social events.

“He would toss a coin to see if he would go with them or not - he was awkward and would act up at family events.

“When Susan first met Ann we knew he was quiet and would always call my husband Bernard ‘Sir’.

“But I remember one time Susan had dislocated her knee on the kitchen floor and I was phoned by one of the boys to say she was in pain.

“We went around and Martin was upstairs and he’d said to one of the boys ‘if you go downstairs press your mum’s knee for me’.

“One time I know that Martin had once smashed up the couple’s bannister and even threatened her to hit her with it.

“On another occasion Anne told me the family had a day out together and Adam [Martin’s son] said he didn’t want to go on a cable car ride - so Martin struck him across the face and then Martin sulked for the rest of the day.”

A statement read out by the coroner from Mr Ashworth’s mother, Barbara Ashworth, said: “I will never get over what Martin did and it will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

The court heard Mrs Ashworth, a civil servant, had told her husband she did not love him any more while he was in hospital.

The four family statements read to the court pointed to Mrs Ashworth’s raising the question of divorce as a catalyst to worsen her husband’s erratic and childlike behaviour.

The inquest was told Mr Ashworth had been admitted to the Becklin Centre on March 26 after he was found by his son Adam, 17, slumped next to his car.

Mr Ashworth said in hospital he had attempted the carbon monoxide poisoning route to killing himself because it was painless, but he admitted it wasn’t.

The court heard he was discharged with medication on April 16, just two weeks before the fatal house fire.

Dr Jack Chakrabarti, who spoke to Mrs Ashworth while her husband was in hospital, told the hearing: “She told me that he [Martin] was difficult to live with and would act up at family events.”

Psychiatrist Dr Indranil Chakrabarti spoke about Mr Ashworth’s mental health status and told the hearing, which was attended by family members, that doctors had prescribed him only sleeping tablets.

He said in his doctors notes that Martin described himself as “alright” in hospital after being taken in under section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

Dr Chakrabarti said he was given routinely 15 minute check ups and did not “appear depressed in any way”.

The inquest, which is expected to last three weeks, continues.

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