“Sorry - I’d lost her” was the cryptic message left by a husband who stabbed and strangled his wife before killing himself.
Leyland trucks worker Nigel Maude, 58, killed his wife Judith in their Hoghton home and then drove to a nearby railway line and stepped in front of a train.
When police searched the couple’s home in Charles Crescent, they found a note written by Mr Maude saying simply: “Sorry - I’d lost her.”
Deputy Preston coroner Simon Jones recorded a verdict that Mrs Maude, 57, was unlawfully killed, at an inquest into their deaths yesterday.
He also recorded a verdict that her husband took his own life.
Mr Jones said: “This is a genuine tragedy, a completely unexpected out-of-the-blue occurrence.”
Preston Coroner’s Court heard that the investigation began on August 11 this year when fitter Mr Maude, who had worked for Leyland Trucks for more than 30 years, was struck by a train near Pleasington.
When officers went to his home to inform his wife, they found her dead in an upstairs bedroom.
Detectives concluded that no-one else but Mr Maude could have been responsible for the violent attack on Mrs Maude, but the motive remains unclear.
Pathologist Dr Alison Armour told the Preston inquest that Mr Maude died from multiple injuries consistent with having been struck by a train. There was no alcohol in his blood and low traces of a drug used to treat depression.
Dr Armour said Mrs Maude died from multiple injuries. There were five stab wounds, two of which would have proved fatal on their own.
The wounds were consistent with a 18cm-long knife found nearby.
Dr Armour said one of the wounds to her back had punctured a lung and one to her neck had penetrated her jugular vein. There was also evidence of suffocation and strangulation.
She said: “She suffered a number of stab wounds to the body but she was still alive when pressure was applied. The other wounds were inflicted in life and would have caused pain and suffering.”
The pathologist said there were no obvious defence injuries.
Mr Paul Corry said in a statement that he was driving a train from Blackpool to York on the morning of Sunday August 11 when he saw a man crouched by the side of the track. He suddenly saw the man run towards the line, so he applied his brakes.
He said the man stopped on the tracks and “stood tall”. He did not raise his arms, and the train struck him.
Bamber Bridge GP Dr Stephen Howell said in a statement that Mr Maude had no history of mental illness. Mr Maude had told him his mother had gone into a nursing home and he was finding it stressful. He prescribed Mr Maude prescription drugs.
Mr Robert Taylor said in a statement he had been a neighbour of the Maudes for around 25 years and had never seen them argue or heard raised voices. Mr Taylor said they seemed to do everything together, and were only separated when he went for a walk or went to work.
At 9am on the day of the deaths, he looked outside from his home and saw Mr Maude walk into the garden and sit on a child’s garden swing.
He sat there for a while facing towards the house and then got up and walked back to the house.
Mr Taylor said he never saw or heard anything else.
Det Insp Andrew Hulme, the senior investigating officer, told the inquest that Mrs Maude had been found in an upstairs room lying on her back between the wardrobe and the bed. She was fully clothed and there was no sign of forced entry to the house.
Det Insp Hulme said a black-handled kitchen knife found nearby had Mrs Maude’s DNA on it, but no trace of her husband’s. On the mantelpiece, there was a note saying “Sorry - I’d lost her.” Mr Maude’s fingerprints were found on it.
The detective added: “This supports the theory that Mr Maude was leaving a message for people to try to understand what had actually happened in these tragic circumstances.”
Det Insp Hulme said the couple’s daughter Vicky saw Mr Maude the day before the tragedy, and he seemed thoughtful and distant.
On the morning of the deaths, Mr Maude rang Vicky and said he and his wife were going to have a drive out to Settle, but he didn’t invite her. Just over 40 minutes later, Mr Maude was on the railway.
Det Insp Hulme said the Maudes were of good character and there were no reports of police being called to the house previously. There was no evidence of heavy debt, and nothing untowards found on the home computer.
The detective said: “There is nothing to suggest it was anything other than a happy caring marriage. It has come as a complete shock to everybody.”
Det Insp Hulme said it could be that the financial implications of his mother’s moving into a care home was the trigger for his actions.