Father killed wife and two sons

A father who was deeply affected by the loss of a baby stabbed his wife and two sons in their beds before starting a fire and embracing them as he died, an inquest has heard.

Richard Smith stabbed his wife Clair in the chest and strangled her with a neck scarf before stabbing nine-year-old Ben and one-year-old Aaron at their home in Pudsey, Leeds, in December last year.

He then placed the family on his bed, blocked the doors and windows and set fire to the mattress before lying down with them to die, Leeds Coroner's Court heard.

The family were found on the bed with the ashes of baby Jake who died fours years earlier in December 2007.

The inquest heard that Mrs Smith, 36, died from the stab wound to the chest and compression of the neck and Aaron died from a stab wound to the neck. Both were dead before the fire started. Ben had been stabbed three times, in the chest, neck and arm, but the wounds were not fatal. He died from inhaling smoke and fire gases and suffocation.

Dr Brian Rodgers, a pathologist who conducted post-mortem examinations on the family, said the suffocation could have been caused by a hand being placed over Ben's nose and mouth or because his face was pressed tightly into his father's chest as they lay on the bed.

Mr Smith, 37, a quantity estimator, died from smoke and fire gas inhalation but had also stabbed himself in the neck in an unsuccessful attempt to take his own life.

Detective Superintendent Paul Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police, told the inquest: "Clair was in the position you would imagine was natural to sleep in, Ben was laid across his mum, Aaron between them and Richard embracing all three."

Mr Taylor continued: "Four years ago, almost to that day, they lost a baby Jake. The box containing baby Jake's ashes was found in the crook of Clair's arm." Mr Taylor said the couple would take days off work each year around the anniversary of Jake's death.

Coroner David Hinchliff, who recorded verdicts of unlawful killing on Mrs Smith, Ben and Aaron and said Mr Smith took his own life, said: "That's something that obviously deeply affected them."