Wife stabbed to death by Leeds man 'hid axe from him' days before double death, court told

Susan Ashworth

Susan Ashworth

The erratic behaviour of a man who stabbed his wife to death before killing himself caused her and their son to hide an axe from him days before, an inquest heard.

Susan Ashworth, 47, was murdered by her husband, Martin, thirteen days after he was released from a mental health unit.

During that time the couple's 17-year-old son Adam had retrieved an axe from the greenhouse before going with his mother to his grandparents' house., it was said.

Susan's father, Bernard Cracknell claimed his daughter was "conscious of the fact there was a dangerous weapon there" and asked her parents to get rid of it.

While at her parents' house, Susan called the police, an inquest at Wakefield Coroners' Court, West Yorks., heard.

PC Graham Meek from West Yorkshire Police, whose statement was read out by Coroner David Hinchliff, stated that on April 27 he and a colleague had been called to Susan's parents' house.

The police officer, who recorded his statement five months after the visit, recalled that she had reported Martin's strange behaviour since his return from hospital - such as changing Wi-Fi and laptop passwords and hacking her computer.

PC Meek said Susan seemed "calm", but just wanted advice and when the officers offered to approach Martin she told them it would only worsen the situation.

However, questioning the police officer during the hearing, Susan's dad, Bernard Cracknell disputed his claims and said his daughter was "terrified".

Mr Cracknell, 77, claimed PC Meek was aware the family had removed a weapon from the house out of fear for their safety.

He said: "Your statement had no relationship to the truth of what happened on that day.

"She had left her home in the early hours of Saturday morning with her son with an axe to protect her.

"She asked Adam if he felt safe and she telephoned us [her parents] to ask if they could come and stay with us. That was as a result of his [Martin's] actions that evening.

"She told you of the happenings. You and your colleague seemed concerned, but said that there was nothing that you could do."

He added: "Susan for 25 years had been walking a tightrope trying not to aggravate him."

PC Meeks replied: "I do not recall that being the case.

"I would not leave an address thinking someone was at risk and I promise you that I did not leave that address thinking your daughter was at risk."

The coroner said: "Just about the axe - this was mentioned yesterday. I think it was your grandson who had retrieved it from the greenhouse. Did you tell the police about that?"

Mr Cracknell replied: "Yes.

"Susan was conscious of the fact there was a dangerous weapon there and she asked us to get rid of it."

When asked if he was "surprised" when he heard the news about the couple's deaths two days later, PC Meeks said he was.

Previously, the court had heard Susan wanted a divorce after Martin's hospitalisation.

The 48-year-old had been sectioned after the couple's 17-year-old son, Adam discovered his dad had attempted to gas himself with his own car.

It was revealed Susan had contacted the police on two occasions in the 13 days that her husband had been back in the family's home.

The couple had agreed to live with each other again temporarily while Martin looked for somewhere new to live.

But in a letter written by Susan to her solicitor read out to the court she said she did not think her husband was actively looking for new accommodation and, when a friend offered to let Martin a three bedroom property at £400 per month, he claimed it was too expensive.

Mr Ashworth had been admitted to the Becklin Centre on March 26 after being taken in under section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

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

Susan had suffered three stab wounds to the right side of her chest and Martin was discovered barely alive in the garden after being badly burnt.

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

The inquest continues.

FORWARD LEEDS: Pictured (left to right) Bill Owen, early intervention and prevention manager, and Ben Holden, early interention and prevention Worker.

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