In 1996 Howard and Bea Ainsworth died in an apparent murder suicide in Wilmslow, involving graphic and disturbing violence.
Three years later there was another murder suicide in Wilmslow involving another elderly devoted couple – Donald and Auriel Ward - who were found lying in their bloodstained bed in their pyjamas.
The four Wilmslow deaths presented the same mystery. There was no rhyme or reason for the severity of the violence which was entirely uncharacteristic of either man and, as far as anyone is aware, there was nothing in the loving relationships between the couples stretching back decades to suggest that their lives would end such a brutal way.
Today serious questions have emerged about whether both the cases could have been double murders, possibly by the same person. Moreover, three other murder suicides have also been identified involving elderly couples in north west England - two nearby in Greater Manchester and one in Cumbria - raising the chilling possibility that there still could be a serial killer at large who has never been caught.
A 179-page report into five murder suicides has been compiled by Stephanie Davies, the chief coroner's oficer for Cheshire Police, which are described as having striking parallels. Last month she handed the report to Cheshire police who have confirmed they have now launched a review. The Cheshire force has alerted the Greater Manchester and Cumbria forces.
The report calls on the National Crime Agency and Interpol to carry out an urgent review of cases across Britain and Europe to determine whether there are any more related murders. Fearing that such an offender may have committed similar crimes the report's author made freedom of information inquiries across the country and found 39 cases of elderly couples found together following suspected murder suicides between 2000 and 2019.
When she narrowed her search down based on the type of injuries documented at Wilmslow, she identified three cases. These are the cases in Manchester and one in Cumbria. In the report Davies makes clear that she cannot be sure these three murder suicides are linked until their police files have been reviewed.
Photo: Howard and Bea Ainsworth.
Credit: The Sunday Times.