Leeds health boss '˜pleaded for life before being murdered by partner'

A mother-of-one, who was described as a 'little firecracker', pleaded for her life before she was killed by her estranged partner - as her friend listened helplessly while tied to a chair in an adjoining room, an inquest heard.

Anthony Roberts and Guida Rufino
Anthony Roberts and Guida Rufino

Anthony Roberts murdered Guida Rufino, the mother of his young daughter, on January 31, just over 24 hours after she had told him she wanted to end their relationship for good.

During the attack, the 37-year-old teaching assistant even texted his own family and said Ms Rufino, 38, had attacked him and that she had been taken away by police.

But in reality, Mr Roberts was punching, kicking and beating his former partner and tying both her and her work colleague, Johanna Coleman, to chairs.

Police attend the murder scene in Idle, Bradford. Pic: Ross Parry

A PC who found Ms Rufino told the inquest that she had “a severe deep cut to her neck.”

Anthony then killed himself by cutting along a previously drawn line on his right leg, severing a major artery.

As the scene of “absolute horror” was unfolding, Ms Coleman was tied up in an adjoining room after being bound by Roberts and moved from the living room shortly after he became violent.

Describing herself as “terrified”, a statement by Ms Coleman said she could hear her friend pleading for her life, saying: “Tony stop it, don’t do it” and “Tony, don’t”.

Police attend the murder scene in Idle, Bradford. Pic: Ross Parry

Ms Rufino was a director of a Leeds-based occupational health company. Her business partner, Dr Jacqueline Senior, led tributes after the tragedy, describing her as a “devoted” mother.

The couple’s daughter, believed to be two years old, was being looked after by relatives after the attack.

In the statement, read out by Coroner’s officer Sam Carliss, Ms Coleman described how Ms Rufino had told of her intention to ask her partner to move out of the house they shared in Bradford, and had asked her to stay with her for a week.

Ms Coleman, who moved to England from America in 2013, said: “Guida said she was going to ask Tony to leave on Saturday. She asked me to come and stay with her for a week.

“Guida came to pick me up on Saturday and we arrived at Guida’s at 1pm. We left my suitcase in the car as we didn’t want Tony to know I was staying.”

Ms Coleman described Mr Roberts, who had met his partner online, as “not happy about things” before eventually leaving the house on the premise he could come back to pick up his young daughter, Isabel, the following day.

When he arrived alone on Sunday afternoon, having taken Isabel to his family’s house during the day, he asked if he could have a little opportunity to talk.

Ms Coleman said: “She was giving him 15 minutes.”

Shortly after, Ms Rufino then asked Mr Roberts to leave and to go get their daughter.

Ms Coleman said: “Guida told Tony to get out and she opened the door before he then lunged at her and punched her in the face. She fell to the floor.

“I tried to tell him we could talk about this but Tony said, ‘No Jo, you don’t understand, you didn’t hear her bollocking me in there’.”

Ms Coleman described Mr Roberts kicking his partner while on the floor before tying both of the woman to separate chairs with silver duct tape and kicking Guida in the face, causing her to be sick.

She said: “Guida was shouting at me to call the police but Tony said: ‘Jo’s not going to do anything’.

“I tried to talk to Tony but he said, ‘No we’ve passed that now’.

“I think he must have got fed up of me eventually because he moved me into another room.”

Ms Coleman described yelling out to the attacker to try to distract him as she heard her colleague scream and plead before she heard several thumps on the floor.

She said: “I continued to shout but got no answer. It was quiet for some time but eventually I realised he wasn’t coming.

“I managed to get the tape off my hands because I’m quite small.”

Ms Coleman said she was then able to escape the house through a laundry room window before running to a neighbours’ house and asking them to call the police.

The inquest at Bradford Coroner’s Court heard the pair’s five-year relationship, which marked the first time Mr Roberts moved out of his mother’s house, described as “volatile” and that they frequently had arguments over trivial things such as cleanliness and household chores.

Ms Coleman’s statement described her colleague as a “mother figure to Anthony” and said “Guida was always complaining about him”.

Despite no police incidents of violence between the pair being reported, the statement described a time when Ms Rufino told her Mr Roberts had “shoved her in front of Isabel [their daughter]”.

Ms Coleman said: “About six months prior, Guida had told me she and Tony had had a verbal argument which was very heated.

“She then told me he had come upstairs and dragged her out of bed and he had kicked her about the body.

“She made an excuse to go to the toilet and went to a neighbour’s house. He had told her not to call the police.”

In a statement also read out by the coroner’s officer, Mr Roberts’ mother Teresa described him as having gone through a bout of depression following a number of family bereavements a few years ago.

Describing her son’s disagreements with Guida, Teresa said: “Anthony would complain that Guida would shout at him for not doing things the way she wanted him to.

“He would say,’I don’t know what I’m doing wrong’.”

Police discovered two knives in the sink in the bathroom, the inquest heard.

Assistant Coroner Martin Fleming gave a conclusion of Mr Roberts’ death as suicide as described a degree of “pre-planning”.

He told the court: “It’s clear that their relationship had broken down. No one could have envisaged its escalation.

“Anthony was not prepared to accept the end of the relationship.

“On the balance of probabilities, he arrived at Guida’s house with the duct tape. This indicates some sort of pre-planning.

“This is an incident that is completely out of character for Anthony.

“But he had described himself as having gone beyond the point of no return.”

The inquest of Guida Rufino will take place tomorrow.