A devoted wife who found the body of her husband in their home was so heartbroken that she may have ‘given up’ her will to live, laid down beside him and died.
The bodies of retired bank manager Raymond Shepherd, 76, and his wife Paula, 70, were found next to each other on their bedroom floor almost three weeks after anyone last saw them.
When police were called to the house after an estate agent raised the alarm, they discovered bloodstains in the bungalow.
They found the body of Mr Shepherd, which had badly decayed, was partially covered with a duvet while Mrs Shepherd was lying next to him on the floor in her night dress.
A coroner said housewife Mrs Shepherd’s world had ‘collapsed’ after seeing her husband’s body, adding: ‘She couldn’t see a future without him.’
The couple, who were married for over 40 years and regularly went on cruises abroad, had a history of ill health, Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard.
The last people to see them alive were paramedics on March 18 last year when they were called after Mr Shepherd, who used a mobility scooter, fell at home in Locks Heath.
Their bodies were eventually discovered when estate agent Suzanne Ashman, who was handling the sale of their home, raised the alarm on April 7 – 20 days later.
Mr Shepherd’s daughter Alison White also visited their home on Easter Sunday during that time because it was ‘unusual’ for her father and stepmother not to give her children an Easter egg.
But because the couple were so well travelled and often went on cruises ‘at the drop of a hat’, no-one suspected the tragic events which ultimately unfolded.
Mrs Ashman, of Beals Estate Agents, said when she arrived at their home on April 7 to check on their welfare, there was no sign of life.
‘I unlocked the door and I went into the porch,’ she said.
‘The smell hit me and I didn’t go over the threshold.’
Hampshire Constabulary’s major crime team determined there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding their deaths.
The inquest heard 5ft 7in Mr Shepherd was diabetic, suffered from gout and arthritis, had a pacemaker fitted and was confined to a wheelchair.
He had a knee and hip replacement but his GP said he would be unlikely to survive any future operations under general anaesthetic.
Mrs Shepherd, who was about 5ft 4in, was diagnosed with epilepsy and had recently suffered a seizure before her death.
Dr Basil Purdue, a consultant pathologist, said attributing a cause of death was difficult because of decay to their bodies but was able to determine Mrs Shepherd died ‘some time after’ Mr Shepherd.
An autopsy showed it was a ‘strong likelihood’ he died from natural causes.
The inquest heard there was nothing to suggest he was attacked and Dr Purdue concluded his body had lain there for two to three weeks.
He continued: ‘It may be she despaired and chose to lie by her husband, having a final seizure, and she may have given up the will to live.’
Her stepdaughter Alison agreed his assessment was ‘quite possible’, adding: ‘She always took the back seat and dad was her anchor.’
Addressing Alison, senior coroner David Horsley said: ‘Your father has died.
‘Your stepmother saw him as the anchor and I think she’s sadly gone to pieces. It’s a strong possibility to me that she’s given up. We can’t imagine what went on in the time between the deaths and it’s such a tragedy.’
He concluded they died from natural causes.