Man stabbed wife and daughter and set himself on fire, inquest hears

Quantity surveyor stabbed wife and daughter, 27, to death before setting himself on fire after pandemic triggered bout of anxiety over worries about catching Covid and working from home, inquest hears

  • Gary Walker, 57, stabbed his wife Caroline, 50, and daughter Katie, 24, to death
  • The quantity surveyor then set himself on fire on March 29, 2020, at their home
  • Emergency services called to the Hemel Hempstead home after smoke was seen
  • GP notes read at an inquest today showed Mr Walker had a history of anxiety 
  • For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details 

A quantity surveyor stabbed his wife and daughter to death before setting himself on fire at their home, an inquest has heard.

Gary Walker, 57, killed Caroline Walker, 50, and his 24-year-old daughter Katie at the family home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, on March 29 last year.

Mrs Walker, who had previously worked as a supervisor at Waitrose, suffered 39 stab wounds and kennel assistant Katie suffered 38.

Both victims also had defensive injuries on their arms.

Hertfordshire’s senior coroner, Geoffrey Sullivan said that GP notes had recorded Mr Walker’s history of anxiety and that he had been prescribed medication in March 2020 after his recurrent issues were ‘triggered by the coronavirus pandemic’.

Quantity surveyor Gary Walker, 57, stabbed Caroline Walker, 50, and his 24-year-old daughter Katie to death at their family home (pictured) in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, before setting himself on fire on March 29 last year, an inquest has heard

Prior to this, Mr Walker had seen a doctor in 2019 after becoming concerned about jury service, and in 2018 over having to give presentations at work.

Mr and Mrs Walker also had two other children, Christopher and Sarah, who did not live at the home.

Detective Constable Jason Rice, of the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Major Crime Unit, today told the hearing in Hatfield that when Sarah visited the family home the night before the deaths ‘everything seemed normal’. 

Sarah would often visit the family home between 8pm and 9pm three to four times a week.

On the night before Mr Walker killed his wife and daughter, Mr Rice said that Sarah had stayed in the car during her visit and that her father had stayed inside the house throughout, to watch TV. 

Mrs Walker, who had previously worked as a supervisor at Waitrose, suffered 39 stab wounds and kennel assistant Katie suffered 38. Both victims also had defensive injuries on their arms

Mr Rice continued by saying that Mrs Walker had told Sarah her father was ‘very worried about catching the virus’. 

Ms Walker described her father as a ‘quiet man’. She was not aware that he had any mental health issues, she had had a ‘happy childhood’, and her parents had a ‘normal relationship’, Mr Rice said.

Mr Rice said the pandemic had had a ‘major impact’ on Mr Walker, who had to work from home, ‘which he wasn’t used to’.

‘The pressure of the unknown at the time certainly had an impact on him,’ he said.

Speaking about the night of the deaths, Mr Rice said that Mr Walker had fetched a flammable liquid from a garden shed and set himself on fire after returning to the house.

Hertfordshire’s senior coroner, Geoffrey Sullivan said that GP notes had recorded Mr Walker’s history of anxiety and that he had been prescribed medication in March 2020 after his recurrent issues were ‘triggered by the coronavirus pandemic’

Neighbours called the emergency services at around 12.30pm after seeing smoke, with firefighters finding Mr Walker dead at the bottom of the stairs, his wife’s body in the living room and that of their daughter in an upstairs bedroom. 

Coroner Mr Sullivan said: ‘The reason for these tragic events remains a mystery.

‘None of the evidence we have from family, work colleagues and neighbours provides any indication or explanation of why these tragic events occurred.’

However, Mr Rice, of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Major Crime Unit, said there was evidence Mrs Walker had gotten herself into around £20,000 of debt and had been keeping this from her husband.

Mr Rice said it was unclear what effect this had had on the situation.

On the day of the incident, a doorbell camera at the Walkers’ home showed a delivery arrived at around 9.30am, then about an hour later Mrs Walker visited family friends in the cul-de-sac.

Neighbours called the emergency services at around 12.30pm after seeing smoke, with firefighters finding Mr Walker dead at the bottom of the stairs, his wife’s body in the living room and that of their daughter in an upstairs bedroom

Neighbour Peter Downer said he had asked Mrs Walker to buy him a speaker from eBay and she had gone to collect £70 from him to do so.

He said she ‘seemed her usual self’ when she left his house at about 10.30am.

Around two hours later, neighbours saw smoke and called the emergency services.

Coroner Mr Sullivan recorded Mr Walker’s medical cause of death as being consistent with the effects of fire.

He recorded Mrs Walker and Katie Walker’s medical causes of death as stab wounds to the chest.

He concluded that Mr Walker died by suicide and that Mrs Walker and Katie Walker were killed unlawfully.

He described them as an ‘entirely normal and pleasant family’.

He extended his ‘sincere condolences’ to the couple’s son, Christopher Walker, and to Mrs Walker’s brother, Paul Ellis, who both attended the hearing, and asked that his condolences be passed to Sarah Walker, who did not attend.

Family members who attended made no comment after the hearing.

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