A Birmingham mum-of-two was stabbed to death by her estranged husband who “could not live without her” and threw himself in front of a train, an inquest heard.
A jury at Birmingham Coroners Court recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on Helen Findlay, who was stabbed 11 times in the chest with a kitchen knife and attacked around the head with a hammer at her former marital home.
They also found that her estranged husband, Mark Findlay, aged 41, walked the short 75 metre distance to Marston Green train station shortly after the attack and took his own life by jumping in front of a high speed train.
Mrs Findlay, aged 36, was discovered on February 17 when police went to Holly Lane, Marston Green, after finding a birth certificate in Mr Findlay’s back pocket after he had taken his own life.
Officers forced entry to the house, which had its curtains drawn and two cars on the drive, after seeing smudges on walls and piles of clothes through frosted glass.
Mr Findlay had locked the house up and left the family’s two pet Labrador dogs in the garden.
The inquest heard that police found Mrs Findlay’s body on the lounge floor. They also found letters to family members, an open train timetable, a hammer, a 12cm long kitchen knife and a half-eaten McDonalds breakfast on a table.
The couple, who ran a printing business together and had two children. Joshua aged 13 and Holly, six, split up before Christmas last year.
They had a brief reconciliation during Christmas, but Helen had left the family home and was living in Stechford.
The court heard that police had recovered CCTV images from a shop opposite the house, another in Marston Green train station and a McDonald's restaurant in Chelmsley Wood, which had tracked the couple’s last movements.
Detective Inspector Darren Lee said: “The CCTV showed Mark’s car leaving the home that morning at 8.25am. Helen arrived at 9.14 and left again at 9.16am.
“Mark returns in his car at 9.56am and his car does not move again. Helen was seen again on CCTV at McDonalds in Chelmsley Wood buying breakfast at 10.05am.
“She returned to the house at 10.19am and the car did not move again. At 11am Mark left the house alone on foot and is seen at Marston Green train station on CCTV at 11.05am.
“At 11.16am he is seen on CCTV leaping in front of the train.
“Despite the marital break up the couple were business partners and they still had contact regarding their children.
“All the indications were that the letters had been written hastily by Mark, who had covered up blood in the hallway with clothes and sheets.
“The curtains had been closed and Mark had changed from a heavily bloodstained jumper that was found upstairs.”
Detective Sergeant Richard Huckvale revealed that officers had taken more than 100 statements, had conducted background checks and had checked computers and mobile telephones.
He added: “There was no evidence that he was planning to harm Helen in the days before the deaths.
“In one of the letters that was left by Mark, he did ask his parents to look after the children. There was no confessions in the letters that were left.”
Giving evidence, Mr Findlay’s father, Roy, said: “Mark was not coping very well with the split. Helen was his whole life. He just could not live without her.”
* West Midlands Police have been cleared of any wrongdoing after it emerged that Helen Findlay had claimed that her estranged husband had superglued her car and house doors together just five days before her death.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) launched an independent inquiry into the action police officers took following the call.
A spokesman for the IPCC said: “Following the conclusion of an inquest the IPCC is releasing its findings into an investigation into police contact with Helen Findlay prior to her death.
“The IPCC’s independent investigation found there was no evidence of misconduct by police officers and that officers had acted in accordance with force procedures and policies in how they dealt with Helen Findlay’s report of criminal damage.
“West Midlands police mandatorily referred Helen Findlay’s death to the IPCC immediately after her body was found on Tuesday February 17
“On Thursday February 12, 2009, police had received a call from Helen Findlay reporting that someone had super-glued both her car doors, and the locks to the front door of her new home in Stetchford, Birmingham.
“She stated she believed her estranged husband, Mark Findlay, was responsible. The police call-taker graded the incident within the ‘domestic abuse’ category, and police officers attended Helen’s address later that day within specified time limits.
“Helen Findlay repeated her suspicion to the police officers and said that she wanted to report the incident in case of any future child custody issue.
“She did not report any threats or concerns for her safety, and did not want police to speak to her estranged husband.
“The incident was recorded as criminal damage and officers began an investigation into the allegations by conducting house to house enquiries. There was no supporting evidence regarding a suspect, so no positive action could be taken to interview Mark Findlay.”
IPCC Commissioner, Len Jackson, said: “Our investigation found that, awful though the outcome was, no police officer could have foreseen the terrible events which unfolded resulting in the deaths of Helen and Mark Findlay.
“The police were not made aware of any potential threats to cause serious harm, and had no other intelligence or information available to act other than they did.
“Given a lack of any evidence as to who was responsible for the damage, and no power of arrest existing to speak to Mr Findlay, in the circumstances there was no positive action the police could have reasonably been expected to take.
“I would like to again send my condolences to the family of Helen Findlay for whom I suspect no investigation outcome would provide comfort at this very difficult time.”