Quarry children 'unlawfully killed'
Three young children were unlawfully killed in a remote quarry by their father who then jumped to his death from a cliff, a coroner has ruled.
The deputy coroner for Mid and Northwest Shropshire described the killing of 12-year-old Samuel Fuller and his sisters Rebecca and Charlotte, aged eight and seven, as acts of "unimaginable horror".
Finding that Ceri Fuller had taken his own life, coroner Andrew Barkley said overwhelming evidence had driven him to the inescapable conclusion that the 35-year-old acted alone in attacking his children with a hunting knife.
A two-day inquest heard the children, from Milkwall, Gloucestershire, were found dead at Pontesbury Hill, Shropshire, on July 16 last year. All three had suffered a severe neck wound inflicted with the Bowie-type knife, while the two girls had been repeatedly stabbed in the chest.
The inquest heard Mr Fuller, a paper mill worker who had a degree in molecular biology, drove the children away from his marital home on the morning of July 12 after agreeing to split up with his wife. During the inquest, Mr Barkley heard Mr Fuller's wife Ruth had been suffering from mental problems and attempted to stab herself and take an overdose after the children left.
Recording his verdicts, the coroner said the deaths represented a "great darkness" and were the "sort of thing nightmares are made of".
After offering his condolences to members of the couple's family, the coroner told them: "It's clear to me that the relationship between Ruth and her husband had lasted for about 15 years and was generally quite good. It appears there were ups and downs and there were separations but nothing so remarkable as to give a clue as to what followed."
A discussion about a separation had taken place on July 11, the coroner said, at a time when Mrs Fuller was clearly unwell. Ruling that it was highly likely the children were killed on July 12, the coroner added: "What exactly happened on that fateful day may never fully be known. From the scene, the police, despite a painstaking search, could find no evidence to suggest any third-party involvement in the deaths.
"The injuries sustained by the children were caused by a knife. The evidence that the injuries were caused by their father is overwhelming and that conclusion is inescapable. I am satisfied and I am sure that he, and he alone, inflicted fatal injuries on his children."
Before the coroner recorded his verdict, Mrs Fuller's father, Ronald Tocknell, told the inquest at Edinburgh House in Wem, Shropshire, she had started to become very disturbed and irrational on the day before her husband took the children away from their home. Describing events on July 12, Mr Tocknell said of his daughter: "She seemed very, very out of it, taking a long time to respond - she was clearly having some kind of breakdown."
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