Pudsey dad Richard Smith slayed wife and children, then killed himself, inquest told (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Mystery remains of why ‘obsessive and driven’ man stabbed wife and children
A father who slayed his wife and two children before killing himself was described as “obsessive and driven”, but police said they might never know exactly what tipped Richard Smith over the edge.
An inquest yesterday heard how the 37-year-old quantity surveyor killed his wife, accounts manager Clair, whom he had met when she was 14 and he was 16, with a single stab wound, before killing his two sons, Ben nine, who died of suffocation and smoke inhalation, and Aaron, 13 months, by stabbing him, last December.
He then set the mattress on fire at the home in Sheridan Way, Pudsey, with clothes heaped on top of it, before the smoke inhalation killed him.
The inquest heard how the family were found huddled together on the bed with the ashes of their baby son Jake, who died four years ago, in the crook of Mrs Smith’s arm.
The father had also tried to stab himself, the hearing in Leeds was told.
Coroner David Hinchliff said that he believed a gas hob had been left on deliberately by Mr Smith to cause an explosion to wreak damage and devastation to the house. The family were discovered before that happened.
Only hours before the tragedy was thought to have taken place the family attended a cricket club function on Saturday, December 10.
A fire investigator told the inquest how a fire had been started in the bedroom with mattresses piled up against the windows and the smoke alarm deactivated. He also told how several kitchen knives were missing The investigator added: “The fire was deliberately started to inflict maximum destruction not just to the building, but to those in it.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Taylor, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team at West Yorkshire Police, said that he believed the children were killed in their own rooms before being moved to the master bedroom where all three looked as if they were being embraced by their father. Ben had been stabbed three times, but that had not killed him, the inquest heard.
Det Supt Taylor paid tribute to Mrs Smith’s family.
“All of them have conducted themselves with such dignity,” he said.
“Richard was driven and obsessive and maybe something happened that may not affect other people. Jake’s death was a contributory factor, and was clearly a matter playing on the couple’s mind, but we may never know what actually caused him to do this.”
Mr Smith had been treated for depression years earlier, and the anniversary of Jake’s death was around the time of the tragedy which was discovered on Sunday, December 11.
Mr Hinchliff, recorded verdicts of unlawful killing for Mrs Smith and her two children.
He described it as a “concerted effort of destruction of his (Mr Smith’s) family and his own self-destruction”.
“My view, having been the perpetrator of all that happened and faced with the enormity of whatever was preying on his mind, I have to conclude that he has deliberately taken his own life,” said Mr Hinchliff.
“On that dreadful and fateful Sunday it would appear that Richard had undergone some sort of abberation affecting his mental health which caused him to take the action he has.”
Addressing the bereaved family, he added: “I am extremely sorry you are in this situation and I have gone into as much detail as I needed to. I hope I haven’t added to your distress.”