Suicide Verdict In Couple's IOW Cliff Death

A couple who drove off a 300ft cliff in a suicide pact had a destructive relationship and could not live with or without each other, family members have said.

Paul Charles, 53, and Jacqueline Charles, 48, were killed when the blue Renault Scenic they were in drove off Culver Down cliffs near Bembridge, Isle of Wight and crashed on to the beach below, on August 17 last year.

Isle of Wight Coroner John Matthews recorded verdicts of suicide for both Mr and Mrs Charles at the conclusion to their inquest.

The hearing at Newport was told that Mr Charles, a former Metropolitan Police officer, had become depressed at the breakdown of their marriage and over issues regarding their children.

The hearing was told that both had previously attempted suicide.

It heard that Mrs Charles spent 10 days in rehab for alcoholism just two months before her death and had been in contact with support services over threats to self-harm.

But the court also heard that Mr Charles had put pressure on his wife to join him in committing suicide.

After the hearing Caroline Sharp, Mrs Charles's sister, said she was shocked to hear her sister had been put under such pressure by her husband.

The 46-year-old from Bromley, south-east London, said:

''I think their relationship probably was very destructive. They did try to live with each other but they couldn't live together and couldn't live apart.''

Mrs Sharp said only her sister could explain her intentions on that day.

She added:

''She had her troubles but she was fun-loving.

''I still can't believe it happened. I do not believe it's the way she would have chosen to have done it if she had. Only they will truly know. She has left notes before but she hasn't done it (killed herself).''

Mrs Charles's son George Johnston said his family helped him and his sister, who cannot be named for legal reasons, come through the difficult times.

The 19-year-old, also from Bromley, said:

''We are a very close family. We are really there for each other for emotional support and I am grateful to the family that we have been able to do that.''

Describing his mother, he said:

''Ever since I was very young she had a lot of internal things she was dealing with and that was very sad. But the fact that she was a fun-loving person showed she had such a sense of energy, and that is what I will remember.''

Explaining his verdicts, Mr Matthews said:

''Having looked at the letters left by Mr Charles, a copy of which was on his body when he was found - fairly typical of an ex-police officer: he left all his affairs in order - the verdict of suicide is appropriate.

''Mrs Charles counter-signed both the letters written by Mr Charles but her writing was not on them.

''However, as a similar letter in her writing was discovered in a prominent position in her flat, coupled with the evidence of several witnesses that she didn't appear to be under any form of compulsion or of fear or make any attempt to escape or jump out of the car, I have recorded a verdict of suicide in her case as well.''

Speaking of their marriage, he added:

''There was a strong emotional bond between them as you would expect, them being man and wife. It became a destructive relationship and, like many destructive relationships, it came to not being able to live with them but not being able to live without them.''

He concluded: ''The effect on the families is absolutely devastating.''

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