A verdict of suicide has been recorded over a depressed mother-of-four whose disabled son's remains were found in a suitcase at the family home in Redditch.

Heather Wardle, 39, was found hanged at the base of a tree in woodland near her home in April - two days before James Hughes's body was found hidden at their home.

The Deputy Coroner for Worcestershire, Margaret Barnard, described Ms Wardle's death as the tragic loss of a devoted mother who spent the majority of her early 20s and the rest of her life caring for a severely disabled son.

Mrs Barnard, who recorded an open verdict on James' death on Wednesday, expressed her sincere condolences to the 21-year-old's stepfather, Brian Kirby.

The coroner was told that Mr Kirby and Ms Wardle's relationship had been in decline in the months before she was found dead.

In reaching her verdict on Ms Wardle, the coroner said: "Life started to fall apart around her.  She appeared happy and chipper to the outside world but she struggled to cope. It seems to me that this is a tragic loss of a young, devoted mother."

The hearing was also told that Ms Wardle informed Mr Kirby at around Christmas time last year he would have to "cut her down" one day, an apparent reference to suicide.

Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Jon Groves, of West Mercia Police, said: "Despite a lengthy inquiry, some questions remain unanswered. We know James died around two months earlier, but extensive forensic tests have been unable to tell us the cause of his death.

"Heather was his main carer and from all accounts was a very good mother, not only to James but to her three younger sons. We may never know why she concealed James' death and kept the pretence to the rest of the family that he was alive and well and in respite care with his father."