Cops 'have name of serial killer prime suspect' as they re-examine string of suspicious elderly ‘murder-suicides’

A MAN has been named as the prime suspect in a potential serial killer case targeting targeting the elderly.

Cops are currently re-examining five historic “murder-suicides” after a report written by a senior coroner’s officer for Cheshire cast doubt on the original verdicts.

A male who lives in the north has been identified by name in the report but cannot be named for legal reasons.

He has strongly denied any involvement, according to The Sunday Times.

The report by Stephanie Davies was submitted to Cheshire police last month and is being reviewed by three separate forces.

Ms Davies’s report began by examining in detail two alleged murder suicides in the Cheshire town of Wilmslow that it concludes could be double murders by a single offender.

Detective Chief Superintendent Aaron Duggan – head of crime at Cheshire police and who is leading the force’s review – said: “The contents of the report and its conclusions are being considered by detectives.

“At this time there is no reason to believe that the cases were not investigated by the police appropriately.

"They were also the subject of inquests. For these reasons, the constabulary has not reopened the cases. However, this decision will remain under review.”

The 179-page report suggested that the killings may be the work of a serial killer.

In the first case, Howard and Bea Ainsworth died in 1996, in what was believed to be a murder-suicide. 

This was followed three years later by the apparent murder-suicide of Donald and Auriel Ward.

Both deaths involved horrifying levels of violence – with Bea, 78,found stabbed in the forehead with a knife. 

She had also been struck repeatedly in the head with a hammer, and was found with a pillow covering her face.

Husband Howard, 47, was found lying beside her in his pajamas – with his head covered by a bag. 

Police investigating the case found a suicide note – which appeared to be written by Howard- at the scene and subsequently declared the deaths a murder-suicide.

Meanwhile, the second couple Auriel and Donald Ward died in 1999 in a similar frightful scene.

Auriel was discovered beaten, stabbed and suffocated and, like, Bea, had a pillow partially covering her face.

Donald was found with a knife plunged into his chest.

Which cases are being examined?

Donald and Auriel Ward (73 and 68 respectively)

The bodies of Donald and Auriel Ward were discovered on November 26, 1999, in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Auriel had been struck over the head and stabbed in the neck, while Donald had had his neck cut open and had been stabbed in the chest.

They were found in bed dressed in pyjamas and a nightdress.

Kenneth and Eileen Martin (77 and 76 respectively)

The bodies of Kenneth and Eileen Martin were discovered on November 10 in 2008 in Davyhulme, Greater Manchester.

They were found in their garage.

Eilen had suffered head injuries and cuts to her head and neck.

Kenneth, meanwhile, was discovered hanged and his throat had been cut.

Stanley and Peggy Wilson (92 and 89 respectively)

The couple were found on February 18, 2011 in the town of Kendal, Cumbria.

They were – like the other couples- found dead in their bedroom.

Peggy had sustained a blow to the head as well as cuts to her neck.

Stanley was discovered with cuts to his neck and body.

Michael and Violet Higgins (59 and 76 respectively)

Michael and Violet Higgins were discovered on February 21, 2000 in Disbury, Manchester.

Violet was found in her bed wearing a nightdress, after being beaten over the head and stabbed in her neck.

Michael was found in the spare bedroom and had cuts to his neck.

He had also been strangled with a coathanger.

The Clues

1 Howard Ainsworth has his head covered with a plastic bag and ligature
2 Bea Ainsworth had a knife sticking out of her head and injuries from a hammer
3 The bag on Mr Ainsworth's head was covered in blood, indicating he already had it on when his wife was attacked
4 Only a small amount of blood was on Mr Ainsworth's pyjamas
5 Mr Ainsworth's body was found in an unusual position, suggesting it could have been moved
6 The tip of the knife in Mrs Ainsworth's head was forced in with considerable force
7 The hammer was found washed in the sink, which would be an unusual thing to do if Mr Ainsworth was about to take his own life
8 Another hammer is also at the scene
9  A possible second ligature is on the floor, potentially left by the killer
10 A bottle of pills was scattered on the floor, but it was a drug not prescribed to the couple
11 A suicide note, from Mr Ainsworth was found, but he could have been forced to sign it

Police initially concluded that both discovered of the cases were murder-suicides.

The coroner's office for Cheshire at the time, Christine Hurst, reportedly said the cases didn't feel "right" and was "appalled at the level of violence" – as well as the eerie similarities between them.

On her retirement in 2017, she passed the cases to her successor Stephanie Davies who has filed the new report.

Now, Coroner Davies has challenged the rulings of the two cases as murder-suicides – citing a number of inconsistent factors in the evidence. 

In her new report, she calls on the National Crime Agency and Interpol to conduct an urgent review of the cases.

Nafir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor for the northwest, told the Sunday Times after reviewing Davies' report: “We could potentially have a serial killer in our midst.

“There needs to be a proper review of these cases and others which carry similar hallmarks.”

A top "cold case" police forensic investigator said of the report: "I would be looking at the same offender involved in both cases as a very real possibility".

The investigator added, however, that he was not certain.

Davies also identified three other 'murder-suicide' cases, which occurred in 2000, 2008 and 2011, which she believes could be related to the deaths of the Wards and the Ainsworth’s. 

One of the cases took place in Cumbria, and the other two in Greater Manchester.

Both police forces have now been made aware of the findings in the report. 

All three cases bore similar characteristics to the Wilmslow deaths – with police saying that the husbands had stabbed their wives and hit them on the head before taking their own lives. 

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