A man who had been living with his wife in a tent in the woods after they were made homeless during the pandemic stayed with her body for three days after she died, an inquest has heard.
Michael Winter and wife Angela, 56, had made a campsite in woods in Burton.
But Mr Winter and his wife argued and she stormed off saying she could no longer cope with living in a tent, reports StaffordshireLive.
He waited at their tent for several days believing she would return but when she didn’t he went looking, and found her dead on June 29, near a children’s play area.
Mr Winter attempted to take his own life and wrapped his wife in a tent so any children playing nearby would not see her body.
He stayed by her side for the next three days, before walking to Burton Police Station to report her death, the inquest heard.
He did not eat or drink for the three days as he was so upset.
The hearing was told Mr Winter was arrested on suspicion of murder, but was later cleared.
Mrs Winter had clonazepam, paracetamol and atolin in her system, which when combined may have led to fatal toxicity, the inquest was told.
Dr Alexander Kolar, who carried out the post-mortem, said: “In her lungs we also found widespread pneumonia. This was possibly independent from the drugs but the drugs [taken] slow the heart rate and breath rate and poses a significant risk of pneumonia.
“It is far more likely that it became a more prolonged death associated with the drugs in her system.”
Mr Winter told police the couple had lost their jobs during the covid pandemic and in March 2021 and they could no longer pay the rent on their home.
They left their belongings behind and moved in with Mr Winter’s family, However, family disagreements led to the couple moving out on June 1 and they started living in a tent and relying on food banks.
The couple tried to return to Mr Winter’s family on June 20 but were not allowed back.
Mr Winter said they had often been asked to leave the areas they camped with their tent.
On June 24 when they struggled to sleep, Mr Winter said his wife “exploded”, saying she had had enough of their living arrangements and walked off carrying two bags.
He found her three days later lying on top of her tent and checked her rucksack and found all her medication for her epilepsy, thyroid condition and blood pressure had gone.
Mr Howe, reading the statement, said: “He did not think she was suicidal. He sat down next to her and looked in her bag and found all her medication had gone and believed she had taken an overdose.
“He sat with her for the next few days and wrapped her body in the tent as he was concerned about children playing in the park nearby.”
He later attempted to kill himself before walking to the police station on July 2.
A forensic entomologist, a scientist who studies insects, estimated her death occurred between June 23 and June 26. She was discovered by her husband on June 29 and her death was reported to police on July 2.
She was formally identified using her sister’s DNA.
Her cause of death was given as the combined affects of clonazepam, paracetamol and atolin, with the coroner recording a verdict of suicide.
At the time of her death, Angela’s family released a statement which said: “Angela was a lovely sister who will be sadly missed by all of her family.
“We are hopeful that in the near future, we will learn more about what led up to her passing.”