A PENSIONER who was stabbed to death by her husband was killed unlawfully, a coroner has ruled.

May Stokoe, 79, was killed by James, her husband of more than 50 years, in the rear bedroom of their home before he also killed himself.

This came after Mr Stokoe, a retired blacksmith, had complained of having "intrusive thoughts" about harming his wife.

Detective Chief Inspector Christina Barrett told the inquest that while the precise circumstances were unclear, it appeared that Mr Stokoe, 79, tried to kill himself at the house, but was disturbed by his wife and attacked her before going downstairs and out to the shed to sharpen the knife.

Ms Barrett said investigators believe Mrs Stokoe, a retired dinner lady, tried to barricade herself into the bedroom, but her husband broke through the door and killed her then himself.

Ms Barrett said the couple, who lived in the house in Sunderland for 48 years, had a "turbulent, distant and unloving relationship".

The inquest at Sunderland Civic Centre heard that Mr Stokoe had begun to receive visits from mental health nurses a few months earlier after a diagnosis of cancer and a failed suicide attempt.

He had spoken about the thoughts he was having with the nurses, but always qualified them by saying he would never harm his wife.

Paul Danson, a consultant psychiatrist, said he had concerns but they were not critical, and he offered Mr Stokoe the chance to come into hospital but he declined.

Coroner Derek Winter, who concluded Mr Stokoe killed himself, said he would write to the Health Secretary as lessons learned locally needed to be heeded nationally.