'˜The way this world is going is not for us': Elderly Northchurch couple's final words in emotional note before gassing themselves to death
An elderly couple asked neighbours to feed their cat and tidied their home before driving to Northchurch Common where they toasted their last moments and gassed themselves to death, an inquest has heard.
Kathleen Howell, 72, and her husband David, 73, were found in a final embrace, sat in their Nissan Micra and surrounded by bottles of booze.
The couple, who lived at Compass Point in Northchurch, meticulously prepared their home to be discovered after their deaths and had even left a note asking neighbours to feed a stray cat they had taken in.
They emptied their fridge, defrosted the freezer, unplugged all appliances and placed their manuals next to them with a note instructing all items should be donated to charity.
Direct debit accounts had been cancelled, with council tax and rent paid up in advance.
Coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said: “They meticulously put their affairs in order with the details of the solicitor to contact, their wishes as to funeral arrangements and they clearly cleaned the house and sent a letter to their nephew outlining what they were going to do.
“It was what they wanted to do and they did it together.”
A dog walker who was taking a stroll came across the couple’s car parked in dense woodland at Northchurch Common on October 13 last year.
The engine was still running and a hosepipe had been fed through the driver’s window.
Police constable Laura Briant said: “David was in the driver’s seat with his head tipped back and with his left arm around Kathleen.
“She was slumped across the car towards him. There were numerous bottles of alcohol, wine and spirits and there was a tumbler glass set on the dashboard and a Minidisc player.”
A post-mortem revealed the couple had both drunk alcohol but the cause of death was given as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Their GP, Dr Robert Songhurst, wrote in a statement that Mr Howell had recently had an operation on his leg and Mrs Howell suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. They were both due to be seen for hospital appointments.
Kathleen previously worked as a warden at Compass Point before they both settled there.
David was a retired oil pipeline welder but investigators could not establish how long they had been married.
Both their elderly mothers were still alive at the time of the double suicide but they had few surviving relatives.
A coroner heard that a letter sent to Mr Howell’s nephew, John, read: “Dear John and Lesley.
“By the time you get this we will be long gone. We hope you don’t think too badly of us.
“The way this world is going is not for us. Have a good Christmas. Love from Dave and Kathy.”
The police report, written by PC Briant, said: “All police investigations have indicated that sadly, and with impeccable planning, Mr and Mrs Howell took their own lives, with no foul play or third party involvement.”
A conclusion of suicide was recorded at Hatfield Coroner’s Court last week.