A HUSBAND stabbed and beat his wife to death in a frenzied and violent attack, then hanged himself above her body after she told him she was leaving him.

The bodies of Forestry Commission worker Duncan Bartholomew and his wife, Susan, both 42, were found at their cottage in Wykeham in January, sparking a police investigation.

But an inquest heard yesterday that no third party was involved, and that Mr Bartholomew stabbed his wife in the neck and chest before hitting her head with a hammer.

Home office pathologist for the North East of England, Dr Peter Cooper, told the hearing at Scarborough County Court yesterday that Mrs Bartholomew had "strange, stab-like wounds", which fitted a home-made, spear-like object found at the scene, as well as blows to the head.

"Either assault would have been fatal," he said. "She had time to bleed considerably before being hit from the hammer. From the stabbing alone I'm sure she would have been unconscious."

Forensic pathologist Gillian Leak said the wounds from the spear instrument would have taken some force to penetrate layers of clothing, adding: "Clothing may have been deliberately cut at the front of the neck so stabs could be delivered straight into the body."

Dr Cooper told the hearing that Mr Bartholomew was one-and-a-half times over the drink-driving limit, and had also taken anti-depressants.

Gillian Leak said there was evidence that someone had tried to use the telephone during the assault.

She said Mrs Bartholomew was dragged feet first to the toilet and Mr Bartholomew hanged himself above her feet.

Coroner Michael Oakley recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on Susan Bartholomew and also recorded that Duncan Bartholomew killed himself.

Updated: 10:30 Tuesday, June 21, 2005