Inquest into John and Elizabeth Knott in murder suicide after fighting plans to turn a neighbouring paddock into a travellers site
A retired company director who was devoted to his terminally-ill wife shot her dead and killed himself after they made “a pact to die together”, an inquest heard yesterday (Wed).
John Knott, 71, killed his wife Anne, 70, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, before he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Police discovered their bodies on the floor of their locked workshop at their 300-year-old Forge Cottage, in Pow Green, Bosbury, Herefordshire, on August 11 last year.
Herefordshire Coroners Court yesterday (Wed) heard the couple had made a “pact to die together”.
Elizabeth Keatley, a friend of the couple for four years, told the hearing: “He [Mr Knott] would do absolutely anything for her within his powers and sometimes outside his powers.
“He did everything. He kept the house. He cooked. He cleaned. He nursed her.
“She loved him too.
“Mrs Conway (Mrs Knott‘s daughter) rang me to tell me she was being put into a nursing home. It was the first contact I had had with her.
“The nursing home was in Worcester. We had quite a chat on the phone about it in August 2014.
“I think we agreed that not only did her mother need care, her father needed care as well. John needed distracting.”
But the inquest, at Hereford Town Hall, heard Mrs Knott “hated” her four days in Latimer Court nursing home in Worcester and Mr Knott brought her home days before they died.
Mrs Keatley added: “I understand Anne hated it and she possibly made her feelings quite well-known.
“John hated life without her and it was a totally impossible situation for them to be apart and for Anne to be in care.
“He and her daughter were taking her the following day and that there she would stay for a week or so.
“He was getting to the end of his tether.
“He said he lost his wife and she physically was not there. She was not mentally, emotionally there as well.
“He was lost without her.
“It is my opinion that some time ago they made a pact to die together.
“I came back from holiday at the end of July and went to see Anne and John. John had lost a lot of weight and he was quite agitated.
“He got too much to do, had too many things running through his head. I think he was not coping, but he was in a way.”
While struggling to cope with his wife’s failing health, Mr Knott was also fighting to stop a gypsy camp being built on land 300 yards from the couple’s £500,000 home.
Police yesterday said Mr Knott, a retired Managing Director of Ashford Construction in Birmingham, had expressed “concern” at the camp.
As well as preparing a large file outlining his opposition to the camp, he also led a village campaign in a desperate bid to persuade the council to reject the plans.
Detective Sergeant Tim Powell, of West Mercia Police CID, said: “I found Mr Knott was a comprehensive note-keeper.
“His estate was very well-managed. There were no financial debts.
“Mr and Mrs Knott‘s lived in an idyllic cottage in Bosbury and their cottage neighboured onto a small field that was owned by other people.
“Planning permission had been put in to build other quarters on that property.
“He did not agree with the planning permission. He had worked in construction and he set about a very professional and comprehensive argument against this planning permission.
“It was to build a wash house and some caravans for local families.
“I would say that having looked and examined Mr Knott‘s circumstances it was a concern to him.
“He clearly set out his objections and had got other people in the village to join him in that.
“If you imagine a file about three inches thick, that was his file for the planning permission concern.
“But the file for the research he carried out on the care of his wife was probably one foot thick.
“We found a 410 single barrel shotgun that was owned legally by Mr Knott‘s at the scene. He had a licence for this.
“There was only one key for the workshop. When we examined the door, we found the key inside by the workshop bench.
“I would say that from the scene and the circumstances around it the person that shot Mrs Knott was Mr Knott and Mr Knott turned the gun on himself.
“That is my professional opinion. There is no way Mrs Knott could have held a gun of that size in her condition.”
He confirmed no suicide note was found at the scene.
Deputy Herefordshire Coroner Roland Wooderson recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for Mrs Knott and suicide for her husband.
He said: “Mr Knott cared for his wife who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Mrs Knott died from a single shotgun wound to the head.
“Mr Knott died from a complete disruption to the cranioservical junction following intra-oral shotgun discharge.
“Mr Knott was coming to the end of his tether.
“In Mrs Keatley’s opinion, Mr and Mrs Knott made a pact to die together.
“I am satisfied Mrs Knott was killed unlawfully. From the evidence I have seen I am satisfied Mr Knott took his own life.
“I therefore record Mr Knott‘s death as suicide.”
The couple’s daughter Jane Conway, 48, from Worcester, did not attend the hearing.
Mr Knott’s brother-in-law, Colin Westwood, who attended the hearing refused to comment afterwards.
Verdict: Unlawful death and suicide.