Police arrested a pensioner on suspicion of murdering his wife, who had just committed suicide.
However, officers did not know that David Morton had also tried to kill himself after being urged by his wife of 44 years to “come with me” as she suffocated herself.
Margaret Morton (69) died after securing a plastic bag over her head.
An inquest last Thursday – almost a year after her death – heard that Mr Morton had tried to do the same but had failed to secure a proper seal and fell asleep.
He woke a few hours later amid a thunderstorm and reached across to his wife who was cold, still with the bag over her head.
Mr Morton said he then phoned 111 for NHS Direct rather than 999 because it was not an emergency as he knew his wife was dead.
A recording of the call was played at the inquest. Mr Morton’s manner was described by DCI Martin Holvey, who led the suspected murder investigation as “very, very calm”.
Police and paramedics arrived at the couple’s “very tidy and obsessively clean” home in Hedgefield Hurn, Gosberton Risegate, at about 4.30am on October 10, 2013.
Mr Morton was taken into custody after officers noted suspicious marks on Mrs Morton’s body. However, a post mortem showed nothing to suggest any signs of physical harm or resistance to the suffocation.
Detectives found two identical sets of documents in another room, including the couple’s pre-paid funeral arrangements, wills and instructions on feeding the fish and deactivating the shed alarm.
The hearing was told that Mrs Morton, who had been secretary for Mr Morton’s engineering business, was “very intelligent and strong-willed”. However, her life had never been the same after a hysterectomy in 2004 as a result of developing ovarian cancer.
The operation was successful and she was later discharged from follow-up care, but developed food intolerance to such an extent that she needed to go to the toilet quickly soon after eating.
Mr Morton said: “Even a single bowl of soup for lunch would set her off.
“If she wanted to go out she had to have no food.
“She wouldn’t go to a doctor because they didn’t make her better [previously], they just made it worse.”
Mr Morton (70) described how his “depressed” wife had not been out of bed for two days before her death.
A couple of days earlier they had rowed about her more frequent drinking and she lifted a carrier bag up and down off the top of her head. Mr Morton told her “not to be so silly”.
The following day Mrs Morton asked him to get some cling film out of the shed and find some plastic bags and elastic bands. He told the inquest he didn’t know why.
At around midnight the next day, he was woken in bed by Mrs Morton “kicking and scratching” him.
She asked him to pick up the plastic bag at the side of the bed, which contained the cling film and elastic bands.
“I didn’t know it was there,” said Mr Morton. “As soon as [the items] were out of the bag she grabbed the cling film and wrapped it around her face.”
Mr Morton described how he tried to stop her but lost his balance and managed to avoid falling on her.
“The next thing I knew she had the plastic bag over her face, ” he added. “She said ‘come with me’.
“I tried to do the same thing. I waited and nothing happened. I fiddled with the elastic band but nothing worked.”
Prof Robert Forrest, senior coroner for South Lincolnshire, asked Mr Morton what he did next.
He replied: “Probably I fell asleep because I was woken by a clap of thunder. She was next to me with her eyes open.
“I put my hand on her hand and she was cold.”
Mr Morton said his wife had never mentioned killing herself. Her estranged brother William Davis told the hearing that his mother always said Mr and Mrs Morton only had eyes for each other.
Prof Forrest said: “I believe on the evidence I have heard today that I can be sure Margaret deliberately killed herself.”
He added: “I’m not absolutely sure that I have heard everything that did occur.”