The truth behind what drove the head of a “perfect family” to murder his wife and children before killing himself at their Leeds home may never be known, their inquest was told.
Richard and Clair Smith were mourning the fourth anniversary of the death of their baby son when Richard, 37, murdered Clair, 36, and their children Ben, nine, and Aaron, 13 months, at their home in Pudsey last December.
The box containing baby Jake’s ashes was found in the crook of Clair’s arm when the family’s bodies were discovered in the master bedroom of their home on Sheridan Way.
The inquest heard Clair and Aaron died from stab wounds and Richard and Ben died from smoke inhalation after Richard started a fire in the bedroom.
The quantity estimator had propped mattresses up against the windows, scattered clothes across the bedroom, disabled the smoke alarm and switched the gas on in the kitchen, Leeds Coroner’s Court was told.
Despite these “acts of preparation”, the inquest heard that the full reasons for the tragedy may never be known.
Addressing Leeds coroner David Hinchliff, Det Supt Paul Taylor said: “I think you’re right in saying there were clearly issues on Richard’s mind but, as with all deaths that you come across and I come across, there are questions that can’t be answered.”
Speaking about the couple’s lost baby, who had died almost four years to the day of the tragedy, he said: “When we moved the bodies we found the ashes in the box they were kept in, in the crook of Clair’s arm. That was clearly a matter that was preying on their mind.”
The bodies were found on December 11 after neighbours called police.
Richard’s body was found huddled together with the bodies of his wife and sons on the bed in the master bedroom.
Clair died from a stab wound to the chest and compression to the neck and Aaron died from a stab wound to the neck.
Richard and Ben were both found with stab wounds but died from smoke inhalation, with Richard thought to have switched on the gas and started the fire before lying down on the bed with his family.
Mr Hinchliff added: “It does occur to me that Richard’s aim would have been not only to take the lives of his family but also to end his own life, and in a way to obliterate evidence.”
The coroner yesterday recorded three verdicts of unlawful killing against Clair, Ben and Aaron and one verdict of suicide against Richard.
He said: “On that dreadful and fateful Sunday it would appear Richard had undergone some sort of aberration, some problem affecting his mental health, which caused him to take the action that he has.”