‘Devoted’ couple take their lives together in suicide pact

The husband and wife of 51 years were discovered lying in bed together hand in hand after taking a lethal overdose, hears inquest.

A DEVOTED husband and wife who died hand in hand took their own lives in a suicide pact, an inquest heard.

The bodies of Maureen, 71, and John Read, 76, who were married for 51 years, were found in bed together at their home in Wooder Wharf in New Road, Bideford, on June 5.

Mrs Read had been suffering from terminal bowel cancer and two notes found at the scene written by the couple indicated they had chosen to end their lives together.

Their three children, Sharon, Duncan and Angela, said they knew nothing of the plans being made by the couple, who they described as very private people.


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They had first met in Leicester where Mrs Read was working as a hairdresser and starred in a beauty pageant for ‘Miss Leicester’.

Mr Read, who was working as a dustbin man at the time, saw her picture in the newspaper and said “that’s the girl I’m going to marry one day.”

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Their son Duncan Read said: “They were completely devoted to each other; as a young child I remember them always being happy in each other’s company and they were the best of friends.”

When Mrs Read discovered she had cancer it was a shock to the whole family and a report from her GP, Dr Alison Stapley, said she had become increasingly worried as the cancer spread to her lungs and her breathing deteriorated.

She was prescribed morphine as a painkiller as well as antidepressant amitriptyline but refused to undertake any radiotherapy, saying she did not want her life prolonged but just wished to be comfortable.

A post mortem discovered the couple had taken a lethal cocktail of morphine and amitriptyline prescribed to Mrs Read to help ease her pain.

Toxicology reports found that Mr Read had 824 micrograms of morphine per litre in his bloodstream whereas Mrs Read, who had built up a tolerance to the regular medication, had 231 micrograms per litre.

The couple were last seen alive on June 4 by their children when they asked for their bed to be moved into the living room so Mrs Read, who was struggling to get up, could look out over the views of the River Torridge.

The next day the family returned to the flat but found nobody answering the door, so they used a spare key to enter where they made the discovery.

When paramedics arrived at the scene, they pronounced the couple deceased at 4.09pm and said they had been dead for some time.

Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland, said it was impossible to put an exact time on their death but it was believed Mr Read had probably died first.

It appeared the couple had got into their nightclothes and dressed for bed where they had taken their lives hand in hand.

They had both left handwritten notes found on the cabinet beside them, which stated their wishes not to be resuscitated and said their family should remember the good times when they were over their sadness.

Dr Earland recorded a verdict that they took their own lives, and said to the family: “We have all been touched by this tragic tale and I hope it will help you come to terms with your loss.”

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