Is There A Serial Killer on The Loose

There are at least three different police forces in The UK that believe they may be seeking a serial killer in connection with the violent deaths of five elderly couples in Northern England.

A 179 page report has been has been filed by a senior coroner in regard to suspicious deaths

A special investigation team has been set up by police to re-investigate a series of deaths that were originally believed to have been murder-suicides un Manchester, Cheshire and Cumbria.

Stephanie Davies, a senior member of the coroner’s office in Cheshire has compiled a one-hundred-and-seventy-nine page secret report looking at the five murder-suicides in which she suggests that actually the killings were murder, plain and simple and in fact were most likely the work of a serial killer.

The senior coroner says that there are “striking similarities” between the deaths five couples between 1996 and 2011. In all five of the cases it was originally said that the husband “went berserk”, struck his wife on the head, stabbed her, then killed himself. In all of the cases the cases were recorded as murder-suicides by coroners.

The report says that at least two of the cases were so similar, that they could only have been carried out by the same offender.

The first of theses cases features Howard and Beatrice Ainsworth, who lived in a semi-detached property in Gravel Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire.

On Sunday April 28th 1996 when neighbours tried to visit the couple, there was no reply to the door and the curtains all remained closed, despite it being 11.30am. The neighbours became very concerned and called the police, they had no idea of the gruesome scene that awaited the officers when the entered the house.

78-year-old Beatrice, known to friends as Bea had a breadknife embedded into her forehead, she had been severely bludgeoned with a hammer abd her face was partially covered by a pillow. Her devoted husband how, 79 was laying next to her with a plastic bag over his head.

The police decided that Howard had killed his wife in a fit-of-rage, then taken his own life. There was indeed a suicide note on the sideboard next to the bed. It seemed that Bea had been quite ill and that Howard had struggled to cope.

But now it has been suggested that, in fact, Howard had been forced to write the note and that the couple has been murdered. There were a great deal of inconsistencies at the crime scene in the Ainsworth house.

Howard had ended his note saying “we have had a good life together” but the words did not match with the heinous and vicious killing and the fact that Bea’s nightdress had been lifted up to her hips, thus showing her most intimate areas. This was clearly not the act of a desperate husband who simply wanted to quickly end his wife’s life, then commit suicide himself.

The report from the cuple’s GP makes things all the more confusing, as it indicated that the only illness Beatrice had suffered prior to her death was a stomach bug and that Howard Ainsworth was in relatively good health for his age.

Howard and Beatrice Ainsworth, murderedin their beds?

According to the suicide note left by Howard he said that he had given his wife a quantity of sleeping pills and there was a tub containing such tablets on the sideboard, but the toxicology report states that neither of the couple had consumed any tablets prior to death.

Now, just three years later on November 26th 1999, another elderly couple, Donald and Auriel Ward were found lying dead in their bed in Lacey Grove, Wilmslow, which was just a six minute drive away.

What are the realistic chances of another murder-suicide in such similar circumstances, involving another frail old couple?

Auriel age 68 had been bludgeoned about the head, then stabbed in an almost identical manner to Beatrice Ainsworth. She had also been suffocated and her face partially covered by a pillow. 73-year-old Donald had a knife sticking out of his chest and his throat had been cut.

According to family members and friends Donald and Auriel had been married for 45 years and were absolutely devoted to one-another, they had grandchildren, whom they adored.

The coroner who presided over that case, Nicholas Rheinberg considered that Donald’s mind must have been disturbed and he had killed his wife, then gone on to commit suicide. There was absolutely no evidence to suggest any sort of heightened stress in Donald’s life and no mental illness, so how Rheinberg was able to reach such a verdict, I really have no idea.

Happily married couple, Donald and Auriel Ward

Next, I turn to Kenneth and Eileen Martin, aged 77 and 76 respectively, who were killed in 2008. The couple died in their garage, Eileen had severe head injuries, with cuts to her neck and wrists, whilst Kenneth’s throat had been cut, his wrists had been slashed, then he had been hanged.

Here is the biggest indication in this case that it was not a murder-suicide, firstly why would a man cut his own throat and wrists then hang himself? He would have been bleeding heavily and would ultimately have bled to death, beside which the wounds would have made him very weak, thus he would have found great difficulty in completing his own unnecessary hanging.

The injuries to Eileen Martin were clearly of a pretty vicious nature and acts of extreme violence, so whilst I understand that the killing may well have been carried out by a man who was not in control of his mind it was still his wife he was murdering.

Eileen and Kenneth Martin, murdered in their garage

Frail couple 92-year-old Stanley Wilson and his 89-year-old wife Peggy were found dead in their bedroom in Kendal, Cumbria.

It was claimed that Stanley had been badly affected by an operation and had begun to believe that his wife was trying to kill him, by poisoning him and that other members of the family were “in on it”. He also allegedly believed that Peggy was trying to somehow alter his thinking in order that he would change his will.

Now this is the curious part in this killing; Kenneth was 92 and was losing his sight despite having had surgery to correct a detached retina yet the pathologist report reads:

“This frail old lady died as a result of a sustained and violent assault”.

Peggy died as a result of multiple injuries including a number of knife wounds to her neck, one of which severed the jugular vein as well as blunt trauma injuries to her neck and face consistent with punching. There were also indications that she had been asphyxiated.

Stanley allegedly went on to stab himself in the neck and other places multiple times so that he bled to death.

Are these really the actions of a partially sighted 92-year-old man, with problems of the mind? I doubt it.

Despite the family saying that they had concerns about Stanley’s mental health and indicating that he had accused his wife of trying to kill him a staff nurse from St. Paul’s Hospital said in her statement to the inquest I have not noticed any psychotic symptoms in Mr Wilson, Particularly no changes caused by medication.

Peggy and Stanley Wilson, Found dead in their beds in February 2011

Michael Higgins aged just 59 was suffering from Parkinson’s disease yet we are supposed to believe that he badly beat his 76-year-old wife with a rolling pin and stabbed her with scissors whilst she was in bed in 2000.

An inquest was told that Mr Higgins had apparently beaten his wife, who was herself a retired police officer and thus more than capable of defending herself, then gone on to strangle himself.

Members of the Higgins family told The Sunday Times that they never, for a moment believed Michael to be capable of such a dreadful murder.

A statement from Micheal’s brother and sister, Daniel and Betty says; “We welcome the report as we have always believed that Michael was incapable of committing the acts described in the coroner’s report. Michael was suffering from advanced Parkinsons and had become very frail. He also suffered from cancer which affected his sight. We knew Michael was a kind, gentle and intelligent man who was devoted to Violet”.

The Sunday Times newspaper revealed that a chief suspect had been identified earlier in 2020, but he cannot be named for legal reasons. He strongly denies any involvement in any of the killings.

Violet Higgins 76, with her younger husband Michael, aged 59

So to sum up a little; here we have at least five couples who have died in very similar circumstances, with two killings of the female victims being almost identical and in the same area.

We have evidence to suggest that there has been foul play and we have evidence that doesn’t add up when it comes to the claims of murder-suicide, so was it a serial killer? Is he still out there roaming loose?

If a prime suspect has been identified and he is after all connected in any way then it’s very likely that there may well not be any more for a while, but if he or she is still alive and active then eventually the hunger to kill will be overwhelming and there will be another similar murder.

In closing, I will say that I will not be letting this case rest, this is not “just another blog”, so if anyone knows of any similar cases in the North West of England between 1996 and the present day that I have not included here, please do get in touch, or indeed if you have any thoughts on these cases.



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Lolly’s True Crime World cold case review specialists, researchers, and Unsolved crime investigation is our passion. Buy me a coffee