COUNTY NEWS: Murder inquest rules Chidham couple were ‘brutally killed’ in Sussex home

Collect picture of  Dennis Jefferson, 76, and wife Sheila, 73, taken in August 2010 SUS-160902-154111001

Collect picture of Dennis Jefferson, 76, and wife Sheila, 73, taken in August 2010 SUS-160902-154111001

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An elderly couple were brutally and unlawfully killed at their home in Chidham, near Chichester, an inquest concluded this afternoon.

Dennis and Sheila Jefferson, 76 and 73, were found dead at their bungalow in Maybush Drive after firefighters were called to a blaze at the property on Saturday February 6, the inquest in Worthing heard.

The sole suspect, Mrs Jefferson’s brother-in-law Norman Williams, 70, died from severe burns, damage to his airways and surgical complications in hospital later on Tuesday February 9.

A post mortem examination concluded Dennis Jefferson died as a result of stab wounds to his neck, while his wife died from blunt force trauma with 17 injuries to her face. Both died before the fire started and had shot wounds to the face from an air rifle.

CCTV footage half an hour before the fire was reported showed Mr Williams, of Caernarvon Road, Chichester, buying petrol at Sainsbury’s in Chichester with the car boot open as if to fill a container, police officers told the court.

Mr Williams was severely burned in the vapour cloud from the fire, before driving to a friend’s house near Crowborough, the court heard. Police said a witness described Mr Williams as so injured he was unrecognisable.

Paramedics were called and Mr Williams was taken to Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, where he remained in a critical condition until his death during an emergency surgical procedure three days later.

Items found in Mr Williams’ car included a bodywarmer with blood traces on it forensically linked to Dennis Jefferson and a carrier bag with blood on it matching Sheila Jefferson’s DNA, the court heard. The couple were last seen alive on February 3.

Coroner Penelope Schofield came to the verdict that Dennis and Sheila Jefferson were brutally killed in their own home, adding that both killings were unlawful.

A following inquest into the death of Mr Williams concluded a verdict of ‘misadventure’.

Coroner Schofield closed by commending the families for their dignity and a hope that they would be able put the circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths to one side.

“I do hope that this, as you are obviously all related, can allow you to rebuild your lives and move forward. I appreciate it’s not going to be easy and will take some time.” she said. “I’m pleased to see that both families have sat through both inquests.”

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