Man killed partner and buried body in garden before taking his own life, inquest told

A man told police he killed his partner and buried her body in the garden, an inquest heard, with her family saying he convinced them she was alive for three years by sending messages from her phone.

The concerned family of retired community psychiatric nurse Diane Douglas (pictured) called police in October 2021 and a missing persons investigation was launched, an inquest in Norwich was told.

She had not been seen since late 2018, when she was 55 or 56.

Ms Douglas’s partner, Stuart Williamson, was arrested in November 2021 on suspicion of her murder.

The 56-year-old killed himself on remand in prison the following month.

Tuesday’s inquest was told that Williamson told police, in a prepared statement, that in December 2018 while standing in the garden he “must have picked up a log and hit her with it” but claimed he had no memory of doing this, only the aftermath.

“He described how he must have hit her repeatedly, such were the injuries to her skull and the amount of blood,” said Norfolk’s senior coroner Jacqueline Lake.

In the statement, Williamson said he put two plastic bags over Ms Douglas’s head, put her body in a wheelbarrow and pushed it into the garage, before burying her in the garden.

The inquest heard the property where they were both living, which he rented in Barford Road, Colton, a village west of Norwich, was “secluded” and surrounded by trees.

Ms Lake said the pair had met in around 1986, began a relationship, then moved to a house together and opened a joint account around 2003.

She said Ms Douglas was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a progressive illness of 20 to 25 years which affects walking, talking and swallowing, in 2007.

Ms Lake said the relationship broke down around 2011 and they lived separately, selling their house and dividing the proceeds.

In 2012, a cognitive examination showed Ms Douglas as “on the cusp of significant impairment”, Ms Lake said, with Ms Douglas stopping work and drawing a pension.

By 2016 she was living at the property rented by Williamson in Colton, Ms Lake said.

She said that in 2017 a nephew of Ms Douglas contacted adult social services with concerns that “her ex-partner was exploiting her capacity issues for money”.

But when Ms Douglas was contacted she did not want to raise concerns, said she was not free to talk as her partner was there and said she was “having a bad day” when she spoke to her nephew.

The inquest heard that there were “large amounts of money being transferred each year from Diane Douglas to Stuart Williamson which continued after she would have been killed”, and that Williamson had “little of his redundancy money left” when Ms Douglas moved in.

Ms Lake recorded that Ms Douglas was unlawfully killed, giving her medical cause of death as multiple blunt force head injuries.

She said this could be done on the balance of probabilities, although a pathologist had given the formal cause as unascertained due to the state of decomposition of the body.

Her family and friends said in a statement afterwards: “Diane will always be loved by us and will be missed forever.

“In November 2021 with great sadness and disbelief the family discovered that Diane’s body had been found buried in the grounds of the property where she had lived with her long-term partner Stuart Williamson.

“Between 2018 and 2021 Stuart Williamson led us to believe that Diane was alive and well through his use of Diane’s mobile telephone to send text messages to different family members, especially at birthdays and Christmas, and arranging meetings and then cancelling at the last minute.

“The deception also allowed the perpetrator to continue financially abusing Diane to fund his lifestyle by using her NHS pension, disability benefits, savings and the DWP allowance he was claiming as her carer.

“Everyday we know that true justice for Diane will never happen.

“Stuart had been charged with her murder but the perpetrator took the easy way out and avoided answering for his evil actions.

“Diane’s working life was as a nurse dedicated to caring for others.

“She loved life and having a good time with her family, friends and her beloved dogs.

“We miss her.”

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