A PENSIONER stabbed his wife to death then used the same knife to kill himself, an inquest has been told.

Police believe James Stokoe was attempting to kill himself in the back bedroom of the couple’s house in Hylton Castle Road, Sunderland, when he was disturbed by his wife May.

He then turned on her and, when Mrs Stokoe barricaded herself in the bedroom, went outside to the shed where he sharpened his knife before returning to break down the door and kill his wife of 56 years. He then stabbed himself through the neck.

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Mr Stokoe, a retired blacksmith, complained of hearing voices in his head and had repeatedly spoken about harming his wife in the weeks leading up to the incident.

The couple, both aged 79, reportedly had a turbulent, distant and unloving relationship and would go for long periods without speaking to each other.

Detective Chief Inspector Christina Barrett, of Northumbria Police, told the inquest at Sunderland Civic Centre that following a diagnosis of cancer and a failed suicide attempt a few months before, Mr Stokoe had begun to receive visits from mental health nurses and had talked about the thoughts he was having.

DCI Barrett said: "James Stokoe described things like gremlins in his head telling him to do bad things, like causing his wife harm".

Before the deaths in May last year, the court also heard that some members of the family had started to hide items such as knives in the house from Mr Stokoe.

Sue Wilmott, a mental health nurse, had visited Mr Stokoe a number of times before the attack and said even though he had spoken of harming his wife, he had always qualified it with the assertion he would never harm her for the world.

But she also said he had stopped taking an anti-psychotic drug that he had been prescribed.

Dr Paul Danson, a consultant psychiatrist, said before the incident Mr Stokoe had spoken of how the anxiety and intrusive thoughts he had been having had gone, and therefore his visits were changed from daily to twice weekly.

He said that he had concerns, but they were not critical, and that he did offer Mr Stokoe the chance to come into hospital but he declined.

"It was my opinion that he did not fulfil the criteria for detention," he said.

The inquest heard that Dr Danson actually tried to contact Mr Stokoe on the day he and his wife died, but received no answer on the phone.